Proposed Abstract Title

Biodiversity and food webs supported by BC eelgrass meadows

Presenter/Author Information

Mary I. O'ConnorFollow

Type of Presentation

Oral

Session Title

The Role of Eelgrass Ecosystems in the Salish Sea

Location

2016SSEC

Description

Eelgrass meadows throughout the Salish Sea support rich food webs of invertebrates, fish, mammals and seabirds. In addition to supplying food and protection for smaller animals, eelgrass meadows attract larger consumers to feed on the smaller animals. Animal biodiversity in seagrass meadows is therefore jointly shaped by top-down forces (predation) as well as bottom up influences on food availability and species tolerances of abiotic conditions. I will review recent advances in understanding how seasonal convergence of foraging by great blue herons and small fish such as shiner perch exert top down control on invertebrate communities in an intertidal Salish Sea eelgrass meadow. In addition to top-down control, animal biodiversity in and among eelgrass meadows reveals substantial spatial structure. Beta-diversity is a major component of regional biodiversity, such that species turnover among meadows is substantial. As British Columbia enhances spatial protection of marine habitats to meet Aichi targets of 10% protection by 2020, decisions about prioritizing marine habitats should reflect the importance of consumer-resource interactions and dispersal that integrate ecological processes across multiple spatial scales. This spatial integration leads to connections among habitats and habitat types that are likely central to the sustainability and resilience of marine ecosystems in the future, though our understanding of them for eelgrass habitats remains limited. Fortunately, interest and efforts to understand eelgrass-associated ecology and biodiversity in British Columbia continues to grow, and achieving effective conservation targets is within reach.

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Biodiversity and food webs supported by BC eelgrass meadows

2016SSEC

Eelgrass meadows throughout the Salish Sea support rich food webs of invertebrates, fish, mammals and seabirds. In addition to supplying food and protection for smaller animals, eelgrass meadows attract larger consumers to feed on the smaller animals. Animal biodiversity in seagrass meadows is therefore jointly shaped by top-down forces (predation) as well as bottom up influences on food availability and species tolerances of abiotic conditions. I will review recent advances in understanding how seasonal convergence of foraging by great blue herons and small fish such as shiner perch exert top down control on invertebrate communities in an intertidal Salish Sea eelgrass meadow. In addition to top-down control, animal biodiversity in and among eelgrass meadows reveals substantial spatial structure. Beta-diversity is a major component of regional biodiversity, such that species turnover among meadows is substantial. As British Columbia enhances spatial protection of marine habitats to meet Aichi targets of 10% protection by 2020, decisions about prioritizing marine habitats should reflect the importance of consumer-resource interactions and dispersal that integrate ecological processes across multiple spatial scales. This spatial integration leads to connections among habitats and habitat types that are likely central to the sustainability and resilience of marine ecosystems in the future, though our understanding of them for eelgrass habitats remains limited. Fortunately, interest and efforts to understand eelgrass-associated ecology and biodiversity in British Columbia continues to grow, and achieving effective conservation targets is within reach.