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Alternations in the foraging behaviour of a primary consumer drive patch transition dynamics in a temperate rocky reef ecosystem

Wed, 06/29/2022 - 03:00

Ecol Lett. 2022 Aug;25(8):1827-1838. doi: 10.1111/ele.14064. Epub 2022 Jun 29.


Understanding the role of animal behaviour in linking individuals to ecosystems is central to advancing knowledge surrounding community structure, stability and transition dynamics. Using 22 years of long-term subtidal monitoring, we show that an abrupt outbreak of purple sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus), which occurred in 2014 in southern Monterey Bay, California, USA, was primarily driven by a behavioural shift, not by a demographic response (i.e. survival or recruitment). We then tracked the foraging behaviour of sea urchins for 3 years following the 2014 outbreak and found that behaviour is strongly associated with patch state (forest or barren) transition dynamics. Finally, in 2019, we observed a remarkable recovery of kelp forests at a deep rocky reef. We show that this recovery was associated with sea urchin movement from the deep reef to shallow water. These results demonstrate how changes in grazer behaviour can facilitate patch dynamics and dramatically restructure communities and ecosystems.

PMID:35767228 | DOI:10.1111/ele.14064

Categories: pubmed