Ecological Studies Volume 206, 2009, pp 225-237
Date: 09 May 2009

Simple and Complex Interactions

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Abstract

Biological factors appear to be equally important to physical factors in shaping marine benthic communities. However, the former are more complex than the latter, since biological factors are often subtle and interact among themselves and with other factors. This chapter describes the principal mechanisms by which biological factors can turn simple interactions into complex ones. In addition to the number of interacting species, interactions among organisms are further complicated by the context-specificity, variability, modulation, and simultaneous action of several non-mutually exclusive factors. Examples range from intraspecific interference competition to multiple predator effects. Indirect effects, water-borne info-chemicals and the ability to eavesdrop all allow for surprising connections among species dwelling in benthic habitats. Emphasis is given to trait-mediated effects, which currently represent a strongly proliferating field of benthic research. Such information is important for a better understanding of what affects the structure of and the functioning in benthic networks of species.