Marine Biology

, Volume 160, Issue 3, pp 667–675 | Cite as

Effects of small-scale habitat fragmentation on predator–prey interactions in a temperate sea grass system

  • Peter LjungbergEmail author
  • Thomas Berg Hasper
  • P. Anders Nilsson
  • Anders Persson
Original Paper


During the last decades, fragmentation has become an important issue in ecological research. Habitat fragmentation operates on spatial scales ranging over several magnitudes from patches to landscapes. We focus on small-scale fragmentation effects relevant to animal foraging decision making that could ultimately generate distribution patterns. In a controlled experimental environment, we tested small-scale fragmentation effects in artificial sea grass on the feeding behaviour of juvenile cod (Gadus morhua). Moreover, we examined the influence of fragmentation on the distribution of one of the juvenile cod’s main prey resources, the grass shrimp (Palaemon elegans), in association with three levels of risk provided by cod (no cod, cod chemical cues and actively foraging cod). Time spent by cod within sea grass was lower in fragmented landscapes, but total shrimp consumption was not affected. Shrimp utilised vegetation to a greater extent in fragmented treatments in combination with active predation. We suggest that shrimp choose between sand and vegetation habitats to minimize risk of predation according to cod habitat-specific foraging capacities, while cod aim to maximize prey-dependent foraging rates, generating a habitat-choice game between predator and prey. Moreover, aggregating behaviour in grass shrimp was only found in treatments with active predation. Hence, we argue that both aggregation and vegetation use are anti-predator defence strategies applied by shrimp. We therefore stress the importance of considering small-scale behavioural mechanisms when evaluating consequences from habitat fragmentation on trophic processes in coastal environments.


Predation Risk Grass Shrimp Active Predation Experimental Pool Shrimp Density 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Alexander Hegg for assistance in the field and Johan Hollander and Melanie Hedgespeth for constructive comments on the manuscript. Financial support was provided from Anna and Edwin Berger Foundation (to PL), Krapperup Foundation (to AP), Oscar & Lili Lamm Memorial Foundation (to AP) and Formas (to AP and PAN). All work was conducted in accordance with ethical laws of Swedish along with permission from Swedish Board of Fisheries.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Ljungberg
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thomas Berg Hasper
    • 2
  • P. Anders Nilsson
    • 1
  • Anders Persson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biology, Aquatic EcologyLund UniversityLundSweden
  2. 2.Department of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of GothenburgGöteborgSweden

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