Biological Invasions

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 683–695

Native and Introduced Ecosystem Engineers Produce Contrasting Effects on Estuarine Infaunal Communities


DOI: 10.1007/s10530-005-2889-y

Cite this article as:
Brusati, E.D. & Grosholz, E.D. Biol Invasions (2006) 8: 683. doi:10.1007/s10530-005-2889-y


Cordgrasses in the genus Spartina are good examples of ecosystem engineers that modify habitat structure in estuaries throughout the world. In San Francisco Bay, California, USA, marshes containing native California cordgrass (Spartina foliosa) are being invaded by a hybrid (S. alterniflora × S. foliosa) formed after introduction of S. alterniflora. This study compared vegetation, sediment structure, and infaunal invertebrates in native and invaded marshes. We hypothesized that differences in the physical structure between S. foliosa and hybrid Spartina would be reflected in differences in density, biomass, diversity, and taxonomic composition of infauna. Hybrid Spartina modifies habitat structure more than S. foliosa by producing taller stems, and greater plant biomass both above- and belowground while occupying a much wider tidal range, thereby transforming open mudflats to a vegetated habitat. In general, S. foliosa areas contained significantly higher densities of benthic infauna than adjacent mudflats, while hybrid Spartina areas never contained greater infaunal densities than mudflats. This is because S. foliosa produces a moderate level of structure that can facilitate benthic invertebrates, whereas hybrid Spartina produces so much structure, particularly belowground, that it actually excludes invertebrates. Therefore, we suggest that these two closely related species both act as ecosystem engineers, but with opposing effects on invertebrate communities.


biological invasionscordgrassestuariesSpartinasalt marsh

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Science and PolicyUniversity of California-DavisDavisUSA
  2. 2.California Invasive Plant CouncilBerkeleyUSA