, Volume 440, Issue 1, pp 369–377

Bioturbation as a mechanism for setting and maintaining levels of diversity in subtidal macrobenthic communities

  • Authors
  • S. Widdicombe
  • M.C. Austen
  • M.A. Kendall
  • R.M. Warwick
  • M.B. Jones

DOI: 10.1023/A:1004120621842

Cite this article as:
Widdicombe, S., Austen, M., Kendall, M. et al. Hydrobiologia (2000) 440: 369. doi:10.1023/A:1004120621842


Over 2 years, experiments were conducted to

compare the effects of sediment disturbance by different bioturbating, macrofaunal organisms on the diversity and structure of the associated infaunal community. The four species investigated were the bivalves Nuculoma tenuis (Montagu, 1808) and Abra alba (Wood, 1802), the heart urchin Brissopsis lyrifera (Forbes, 1841), and the burrowing decapod Calocaris macandreae (Bell, 1846). These organisms were chosen to allow assessment of the effects of contrasting feeding activities and body sizes of the bioturbating species on the diversity of the macrobenthic communities. Bioturbation by the sub-surface deposit feeders N. tenuis and B. lyrifera promoted higher levels of α and β diversity in treatments exposed to intermediate levels of disturbance. Whilst no such ‘intermediate response’ was demonstrated for A. alba or C. macandreae, it was evident that changes in the associated fauna were influenced by the feeding type of the bioturbating organism responsible. It was also shown that different elements of the associated community responded differently to biotic disturbance. The results indicate that the variability in density and distribution of such bioturbators are important factors in structuring infaunal communities, and in setting and maintaining levels of diversity in apparently homogeneous areas.


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000