Edge effects reverse facilitation by a widespread foundation species
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Dense aggregations of foundation species often mitigate environmental stresses for organisms living among them. Considerable work documents such benefits by comparing conditions inside versus outside these biogenic habitats. However, environmental gradients commonly arise across the extent of even single patches of habitat-forming species, including cases where stresses diverge between habitat interiors and edges. We ask here whether such edge effects could alter how habitat-forming species influence residents, potentially changing the strength or direction of interactions (i.e., from stress amelioration to exacerbation). We take as a model system the classic marine foundation species, Mytilus californianus, the California mussel. Results demonstrate that mussel beds both increase and decrease thermal stresses. Over a distance of 6 to 10 cm from the bed interior to its upper surface, peak temperatures climb from as much as 20 °C below to 5 °C above those of adjacent bedrock. This directional shift in temperature modification affects interactions with juvenile mussels, such that thermal stresses and associated mortality risk are higher at the bed surface, but substantially reduced deeper within the adult matrix. These findings provide a case example of how stress gradients generated across biogenic habitats can markedly alter ecological interactions even within a single habitat patch.
author list (cited authors)
Jurgens, L. J., & Gaylord, B.