Limpet grazing on a physically stressful Patagonian rocky shore
Many theories of consumer control of communities have come from studies conducted in relatively benign, temperate zone rocky intertidal systems. Here, we examine gastropod grazing and the maintenance of bare space on a dry, wind-swept rocky shore of Patagonia, Argentina. Two limpet species are the primary intertidal grazers. Siphonaria lessoni dominates mid and high intertidal zones, while Nacella magellanica dominates the lower zone. In all zones, limpet densities are positively correlated with bare space and the occurrence of cracks. Tethering experiments revealed that: (1) physical stress sets the upper distribution limit of both limpets, (2) predators, such as oyster catchers, regulate Nacella populations and may restrict them to cracks and vertical surfaces, and (3) desiccation stress appears to drive similar crack distribution patterns of Siphonaria in the upper intertidal. Experimental removal of limpets in each intertidal zone indicated that limpets have: (1) no detectable effect in the high intertidal where physical forces dominate community organization, (2) weak impacts at mid-elevations as grazing only limited the abundance of fleshy algae with physical forces again dominating community structure, and (3) relatively stronger, but still weak impacts in the low zone. These results suggest that grazing impacts on Argentine rocky shores are weak in comparison to the physical stresses (e.g. high winds, low humidity) that largely determine structure in this system. The dominance of physical forcing in this system occurs despite having similar grazer densities to other temperate, but comparatively wet, rocky shorelines (e.g. British Isles) where top-down control is strong. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Bazterrica, MC; Silliman, BR; Hidalgo, FJ; Crain, CM; Bertness, MD
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