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Effects of plant morphology on small-scale distribution of invertebrates

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Abstract

Habitat structure influences organism communities by mediating interactions between individuals and species, affecting abundance and species richness. We examined whether variations in the morphology of soft-bottom plants affect their function as habitat and whether complex structured plants support higher macroinvertebrate abundance and species richness. Three Baltic Sea plant species were studied, together with artificial plants resembling each species. In a field collection, we found higher invertebrate abundance on the morphologically more complex plants Myriophyllum spicatum and Chara baltica than on the structurally simpler plant Potamogeton perfoliatus. In a colonization experiment, we found the highest invertebrate abundance on artificial M. spicatum but found no difference between natural plants. Invertebrate taxon richness displayed no consistent relationship with plant structural complexity. The results imply that plant morphology influences small-scale invertebrate distribution, partly supporting the hypothesis that structurally complex plants harbour higher invertebrate abundance.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the staff of the Askö Laboratory, P. Hansen, B. Sagerman, K., and J. Änggård, for their fieldwork assistance. The manuscript was improved by comments from P. Hambäck, P. Kraufvelin, and two anonymous reviewers. This project was partly financed by a grant from the Stockholm Marine Research Centre (to JPH) and His Majesty Carl XVI Gustaf’s Foundation for Science and Education (to SAW). The experiment and collection methods used in this project comply with current Swedish law.

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Correspondence to Joakim P. Hansen.

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Communicated by P. Kraufvelin.

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Table 4 Invertebrates found in the present study in three shallow soft-bottom bays in the north-western Baltic Proper

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Hansen, J.P., Sagerman, J. & Wikström, S.A. Effects of plant morphology on small-scale distribution of invertebrates. Mar Biol 157, 2143–2155 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-010-1479-4

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