, Volume 25, Issue 5, pp 1045–1052 | Cite as

Faunal colonization of artificial seagrass plots: The importance of surface area versus space size relative to body size

  • Aaron Bartholomew


An index of structural habitat complexity was devised: the average inter-structural space size within a habitat/the width of the prey organism of concern (Sp/Py). Prey survivorship should be low at Sp/Py<1 as the prey will be effectively excluded from using the habitat as refuge (they cannot maneuver through the spaces). At Sp/Py near to 1, survivorship should be high, as the spaces within the habitat are ideal for the prey and their predators are excluded (assuming they are larger than the prey). As Sp/Py increases, prey survivorship should drop rapidly until reaching a lower plateau where no predators are excluded by the structure. Sp/Py is dimensionless, and is potentially applicable across different scales and habitat types. Some of the predictions of this model were tested using artificial seagrass plots deployed in a seagrass bed in the York River, Virginia. The plots had 5 different structural treatments: control (a base with no ribbon), low, medium and high densities, as well as a heterogeneous treatment (composed of 1/3 low, medium and high density in a single treatment). The abundance of 2 mobile fauna size classes (<3.5 mm width and 3.5 to 9.5 mm width) and total species richness were compared among the different density treatments. The abundance of the smaller fauna increased with increasing density, and this response was proportional to the total surface area of the plots. The small fauna apparently did not respond to the smaller, ideal space sizes associated with the higher density plots. The larger fauna responded to the treatments as well, with the highest abundances occurring in the heterogeneous and high density treatments. The larger fauna did not respond to the structure proportional to the surface area within the plots, and its is possible that they responded to the inter-structural space sizes appropriate to their body sizes, although the results do not clearly support this conclusion. The different treatments did not affect species richness when the effect of total abundance on richness was controlled.


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Copyright information

© Estuarine Research Federation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aaron Bartholomew
    • 1
  1. 1.The College of William and MaryVirginia Institute of Marine ScienceGloucester Point
  2. 2.Biology DepartmentAmerican University of SharjahSharjahUnited Arab Emirates

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