Bryozoan assemblages on hard substrata: species abundance distribution and competition for space
Bryozoans are colonial invertebrates that often dominate epibenthic assemblages on the lower surfaces of hard substrata. Competition among neighbouring organisms is usually a critical process regulating biodiversity, and hard substrata have proved to be a suitable model habitat to analyse spatial interactions. We explored the relationships among abundance, species richness, diversity, competitive ability, coverage, available surface, depth and substratum size in an assemblage of bryozoans encrusting pebbles and cobbles in a bank off the eastern mouth of the Strait of Magellan. We also tested whether overgrowth competition can be regarded as hierarchical, and whether the species abundance distribution shows a mode of rare species and a decreasing frequency of increasingly abundant species. Abundance, species richness, diversity and overgrowth competition were highest on the largest substrata. Smaller pebbles tended to be encrusted by the commonest bryozoans, while the rarest species were mainly found on relatively larger clasts. A high proportion of the lower surfaces of most substrata was available for growth. Diversity values of relatively shallow stations were lower than expected under Caswell’s neutral model. Interspecific competition was hierarchical, but the abundance of colonies was not related to the competitive ability of each species. The species abundance distribution was bimodal, with a main mode of rare species and a second one partly composed of relatively abundant bryozoans with poor competitive abilities. This study shows that even in an encrusting assemblage where competition is hierarchical, the weakest competitors persist and the dominant species are far from being capable of monopolizing space.
KeywordsOvergrowth competition Encrusting bryozoans Species abundance distributions Commonness and rarity of species Hard substrata Strait of Magellan
Néstor Landoni helped us in various stages of this study. We are grateful to the crew of the PSV Golondrina de Mar for assistance during the field survey and to CONICET for financial support (PIP 2010-2012 No. 11220090100291).
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