Density-dependent recruitment after winter disturbance on tidal flats by the lugworm Arenicola marina
The polychaete Arenicola marina is abundant and widespread on intertidal sand flats in Königshafen (island of Sylt, North Sea). Juveniles overwinter in subtidal channels and then colonize the upper tidal zone above the range of the adults. In the summers of 1995 and 1997, after a mild and a moderate winter, a distinct nursery belt fringing the shoreline was apparent. The severe winter of 1995/96 changed this pattern. Population size of the adults was halved, and in summer 1996 the juveniles were no longer restricted to an upper intertidal belt and settled over a wide range of tidal flats where adults were diminished. This spatial expansion of recruits is assumed to be a density-dependent response. An overcompensation by one-third of the previous population size did not carry over into the next year. Compared to some other species of the tidal-flat fauna, the disturbance effect by the severe winter on the lugworm population was small and brief.