Habitat configuration and the structure of marine benthic metacommunity

Supervisor: Gustavo Meneses Martins (Department of Biology, University of the Azores)
The transfer of individuals and material between habitats is known to influence community structure. More specifically, the structure of metacommunity assemblages can be influenced by the movement of fauna between and within communities. This study aimed to test the influence of metacommunity isolation (distance of community from a pool of colonists, i.e. a rocky reef), metacommunity size (large vs. small) and distance between communities (that make up a metacommunity) in marine benthic macrofaunal assemblages, inhabiting artificial algal turf. Metacommunity isolation had an effect on abundance of individuals, species density and species composition. Abundance of individuals was higher away from the reef whereas species density was higher close to the reef. More mobile species and amphipods were also affected by metacommunity isolation. Metacommunity size only had an effect on the abundance of individuals which was higher in larger metacommunities. This study supports previous literature on the structure of marine macrofaunal communities around rocky reefs and the effects of metacommunity size on community structure. This study was one of the first studies to experimentally test metacommunity theory in the marine environment. The results have important implications for future work on the effects of habitat destruction.