, Volume 147, Issue 3, pp 556–564 | Cite as

A continental scale evaluation of the role of limpet grazing on rocky shores

  • Ross A. Coleman
  • Antony J. Underwood
  • Lisandro  Benedetti-Cecchi
  • Per Åberg
  • Francisco Arenas
  • Julio Arrontes
  • João Castro
  • Richard G. Hartnoll
  • Stuart R. Jenkins
  • José Paula
  • Paolo Della Santina
  • Stephen J. Hawkins
Community Ecology


It is critical for our knowledge of biodiversity and ecosystem processes to understand how individual species contribute to ecosystem processes and how these contributions vary in space and time. We used a manipulative field experiment in five locations over 17° of latitude [from southern Portugal to the Isle of Man (British Isles)] to determine the relative response of rocky intertidal algal assemblages released from control by the grazing of limpets. Response ratios showed that when limpets were removed there was a trend of effects from north to south. In the north, grazing had a strong effect on algal assemblages, but removing grazers reduced spatial variability in assemblages. In the south, the effect of limpet grazing was far weaker and removal of grazers had a much reduced impact on spatial variability. Here we show a clear trophic control of an ecosystem in that grazing by limpets not only determines macroalgal abundance overall but also modifies ecosystem stability via variability in cover of algae.


Algae Herbivory Biodiversity Meta-analysis Community 



This work was funded by the EU under MAST programme contract number MAS3-CT95-0012 (EUROROCK). The authors would like to thank D. Alverez, T. Cruz, A. Sousa Dias, C. Fernández, J. Gago, E. LaCroix, B. Martínez, J. Oliveros, J.M. Rico, M. Roberts, C. Raedig, T. Silva and R.M. Viejo for help with fieldwork. We also thank Martin Attrill for suggestions on an earlier version of this paper. This manuscript was further improved by thoughtful comments from Christian Koerner and two anonymous referees.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ross A. Coleman
    • 1
    • 2
    • 9
  • Antony J. Underwood
    • 2
  • Lisandro  Benedetti-Cecchi
    • 3
  • Per Åberg
    • 4
  • Francisco Arenas
    • 5
    • 10
  • Julio Arrontes
    • 5
  • João Castro
    • 6
  • Richard G. Hartnoll
    • 7
  • Stuart R. Jenkins
    • 7
    • 10
  • José Paula
    • 8
  • Paolo Della Santina
    • 1
  • Stephen J. Hawkins
    • 1
    • 10
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  2. 2.Centre for Research on Ecological Impact of Coastal Cities, Marine Ecology Laboratories (A11)University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Scienze dell’Uomo e dell’AmbientaleUniversità di PisaPisaItaly
  4. 4.Department of Marine EcologyGöteborg UniversityGöteborgSweden
  5. 5.Dept. de Biologia de Organismos y SistemasUniversidad de OviedoOviedoSpain
  6. 6.Laboratório de Ciêncas do MarUniversidade de ÉvoraSinesPortugal
  7. 7.Port Erin Marine Laboratory, School of Biological SciencesUniversity of Liverpool Isle of ManUK
  8. 8.IMAR-Laboratório Marítimo da GuiaUniversidade de Lisboa, Estrada do GuinchoCascaisPortugal
  9. 9.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of PlymouthPlymouthUK
  10. 10.The LaboratoryThe Marine Biological Association of the UKPlymouthUK

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