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Subject: LCSH

Aquatic organisms, Ecological succession


Biology | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Marine Biology


Infaunal successional patterns in Alewife Cove, a small estuary in southeastern Connecticut, USA, varied significantly seasonally and along the estuarine environmental gradient. Each study site exhibited different patterns of change in species composition and abundance. However, suites of species found during succession did not differ greatly from those found in ambient sediments. Species which exhibited the most variable population changes during succession were numerically dominant tubiculous polychaetes (Streblospio benedicti, Capitella spp., Polydora ligni], and an oligochaete (Peloscolex gabriellae). Other species which exhibited significant activity were the polychaetes Scoloplos fragilis, Hobsonia florida and Nereis virens, the hemichordate Saccoglossus kowaleski, and the amphipods Microdeutopus gryllotalpa and Corophium insidiosum. At certain times, densities of these species exceeded or were equivalent to dominant species densities in ambient sediments and experimental plots. Timing of disturbance greatly influenced succession. Succession after an early spring disturbance was characterized by peak species densities and numbers. Succession following a fall disturbance was abbreviated with few species at low densities, while after a summer disturbance intermediate trends were found. Classification analysis of similarity between ambient and successional community structure indicated that recovery to ambient conditions occurred rapidly in the lower reach (14 to 30 d), while successional changes in the middle and upper basins continued at least until the end of the winter. It is apparent that estuarine succession can be quite variable and that re-establishment of community structure may occur over various time scales with no set seral stages. The physical and biological processes appearing to be important determinants of estuarine succession include (1) timing of disturbance, (2) habitat in which the disturbance takes place, (3) reproductive periodicity of infauna, (4) ambient population dynamics which generate the pool of recolonizers, ( 5 ) abiotic and biotic factors (e.g. food and space resources that affect the preceding 4 factors).


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Publisher Citation

Zajac, R. & Whitlatch, R. (1982). Responses of estuarine infauna to disturbance. II. Spatial and temporal variation of succession. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 10, 15-27