Replacement of native seagrass with invasive algal detritus: impacts to estuarine sediment communities

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Bishop, MJ & Kelaher, BP 2013, 'Replacement of native seagrass with invasive algal detritus: impacts to estuarine sediment communities', Biological Invasions, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 45-59.

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Biological invasions modify the quality and supply of detrital subsidies to aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Where the invader has very different traits to native species, major changes in associated consumer communities may result, as a consequence of differences in their nutritional value and effects on the sedimentary habitat. We assessed how the replacement of seagrasses with the invasive alga Caulerpa taxifolia in modified Australian estuaries influences invertebrate communities of mudflats that are subsidized by detritus from submerged aquatic vegetation. Two months after experimental enrichment of sediments with high (60 g dry weight per 0.25 m2 plot) or low (30 g dry weight) quantities of either non-native C. taxifolia or native Posidonia australis or Zostera capricorni detritus, there were positive effects of detrital addition on invertebrate abundance that occurred irrespective of the resource added. By 4 months after addition, however, detritus from invasive C. taxifolia had produced effects on benthic communities that could not be replicated by detritus from either of the native seagrasses. Plots receiving the high loading of C. taxifolia detritus contained fewer invertebrates than plots of the other treatments, perhaps due to the induction of sediment hypoxia. The pattern, however, reversed at low detrital loading, with the plots receiving 30 g of C. taxifolia containing more invertebrates and more taxa than the other plots, presumably due to the greater resource availability for detritivores. Our results demonstrate that replacement of native seagrass with invasive algal detritus can have large impacts on sediment-dwelling communities.