, Volume 118, Issue 4, pp 745-753

Effects of proximity to an offshore hard-bottom reef on infaunal abundances

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Abstract

Rock outcrops represent an extensive, commercially important habitat along the southeast coast of North America, supporting large abundances of algae, invertebrates and fish. These rock outcrops have often been viewed as largely self-supporting systems, but some studies have suggested that the fish and invertebrate predators that use the ledges for shelter are strongly dependent on food from adjacent, soft-bottom habitats. We examined benthic macrofaunal abundances along two 75-m transects away from a rock ledge near Wrightsville Beach. North Carolina (depth ca. 30 m) in July 1990 and April 1991. The July 1990 samples indicated significantly higher abundances of total infauna, and of polychaetes, bivalves, isopods, and scaphopods, at a distance of 75 m from the rock ledge. In April 1991, when macrofaunal abundances were generally higher than in the previous summer, distributions of major taxa with distance from the rock ledge were more variable. Caging studies on macrofaunal abundances 10 m from the ledge, and video observations of fish abundances at 10 and 75 m from the ledge, provide support for a trophic link between the rock ledge and the adjacent soft-bottom communities. Our studies suggest that there are potentially important indirect effects of predator-prey interactions among the rock ledge-associated predators and soft-bottom prey.

Communicated by J. P. Grassle, New Brunswick