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Ecology. 2007 Mar;88(3):618-24.

Grass shrimp (Palaemonetes spp.) play a pivotal trophic role in enhancing Ruppia maritima.

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  • 1Department of Coastal Sciences, University of Southern Mississippi-Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, 703 East Beach Drive, Ocean Springs, Mississippi 39564, USA.


Coupled trophic-engineer interactions are potentially important for maintaining habitat function and ecosystem services. As ephemeral submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), Ruppia maritima has a short well-defined growth-senescence cycle and should benefit from any ecological interaction that enhances its physical condition and longevity. Grass shrimp (Palaemonetes spp.) are abundant facultative grazers of epiphytic algae and conveyors of nutrients in tidal marsh and SAV habitats. Grass shrimp addition consistently enhanced Ruppia biomass and shoot density in a series of three field experiments conducted in Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Mississippi, USA. In two experiments, epiphyte grazing by grass shrimp enhanced Ruppia by inhibiting die-back during the mid- and latter stages of the Ruppia life cycle. Despite a nonsignificant epiphyte grazing effect, grass shrimp also enhanced Ruppia during its early growth stage in a third experiment. In that experiment, nutrient addition also significantly increased epiphyte biomass. Grass shrimp may have fostered the early growth of Ruppia through direct deposition of feces to the sediment in the third experiment. Grass shrimp play a pivotal trophic role in the maintenance of Ruppia through context-dependent interactions involving stage of the SAV life cycle, season, and nutrient limitation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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