Benthic Mesocosms: II. Basic Research in Hard-Bottom Benthic Mesocosms
The performance of hard-bottom experimental ecosystems has been evaluated on the bases of replicability in space and time, reproducibility of natural environmental factors, goodness in imitation of the original community, and suitability for studies of interaction between populations. Only two comprehensive systems have been reported in the literature, both imitating the littoral zone: an artificial Fucus vesiculosus community at Karlskrona, Sweden, and a boreal rocky shore community at Solbergstrand, Norway. Both are based on an open seawater supply. In addition, public aquaria hard-bottom communities have been used for research purposes, and the design of a coral reef system has been included as an example. Subtidal hard-bottom mesocosms have only recently been constructed, but no results have yet been produced.
These systems have been established by transplantation alone, or in combination with natural recruitment. In temperate water regimes, the latter will take several years to produce communities with dynamic stability. It is believed that community establishment time may be shortened by emphasizing careful transplantation rather than water-mediated recruitment. This would also improve the replicability among units.
The present systems have shown that hard-bottom mesocosms can be established and run successfully for several years. They have so far proved valuable in pollution research, and they should also have potential for basic research, especially in questions where one wants to manipulate the environmental regime, or population sizes and structure. Their advantage over in situ experimentation lies in the possibility of generating certain water regimes, better overall community control, and better protection of installations against damage. Their disadvantage is poor experimental replication and deviation among units with time. They should therefore not be regarded as replicates in laboratory terms, but as reasonably similar communities imitating hard-bottom conditions sufficiently to prevent the inherent organisms from reacting abnormally.
KeywordsCoral Reef Littoral Zone Rocky Shore Fore Reef Water Turnover
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