Long-distance interactions regulate the structure and resilience of coastal ecosystems.
Mounting evidence indicates that spatial interactions are important in structuring coastal ecosystems. Until recently, however, most of this work has been focused on seemingly exceptional systems that are characterized by regular, self-organized patterns. In this review, we document that interactions that operate at long distances, beyond the direct neighborhood of individual organisms, are more common and have much more far-reaching implications for coastal ecosystems than was previously realized. We review studies from a variety of ecosystem types-including cobble beaches, mussel beds, coral reefs, seagrass meadows, and mangrove forests-that reveal a startling interplay of positive and negative interactions between habitats across distances of up to a kilometer. In addition to classical feeding relations, alterations of physical conditions constitute an important part of these long-distance interactions. This entanglement of habitats has crucial implications for how humans manage coastal ecosystems, and evaluations of anthropogenic impact should explicitly address long-distance and system-wide effects before we deem these human activities to be causing little harm.
van de Koppel, J; van der Heide, T; Altieri, AH; Eriksson, BK; Bouma, TJ; Olff, H; Silliman, BR
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