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Shift in seagrass food web structure over decades is linked to overfishing

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift
Författare Susanne P. Baden
Andreas Emanuelsson
Leif Pihl
Carl Johan Svensson
Per Åberg
Publicerad i Marine Ecology-Progress Series
Volym 451
Sidor 61-73
ISSN 0171-8630
Publiceringsår 2012
Publicerad vid Institutionen för biologi och miljövetenskap
Sidor 61-73
Språk en
Länkar dx.doi.org/10.3354/meps09585
Ämnesord Food web structure, Overfishing, Eutrophication, Seagrass, zostera-marina l, trophic cascades, assemblage structure, nutrient, enrichment, coastal ecosystems, eastern skagerrak, epibenthic fauna, western sweden, baltic sea, low-oxygen
Ämneskategorier Oceanografi, Biologiska vetenskaper, Ekologi, Marin ekologi

Sammanfattning

Empirical field studies in seagrass have revealed that overgrowth by filamentous algae which reduces seagrass growth can be explained by a top-down cascading effect caused by declines in top predators, which is enforced by eutrophication. On the Swedish west coast, 60% of the seagrass has disappeared since the 1980s. We hypothesised that overfishing, responsible for a >90% decline in the cod stock, and the 4 to 8 times increase in nutrient load since the 1930s have altered the seagrass structure and function during recent decades. We used quantitative samples from the 1980s and 2000s and analysed the trends in abundance of the 4 feeding guilds: top predatory fish, intermediate predatory fish, crustacean omnivores and mesoherbivores. Since the 1980s, the commercial catch of gadoids on the Swedish west coast has decreased by >90 %, and here we found that the biomass of top predators (gadoids and trout) that forage in seagrass has decreased by approximately 80%. In contrast, the biomass of intermediate predatory fish (gobids and sticklebacks) has increased 8 times during summer and 11 times during autumn, while mesoherbivores (idoteids and gammarids >7 mm) have more or less disappeared from the seagrass bed. We thus found clear evidence that a shift in seagrass food web structure has taken place over the last 3 decades. Combining these findings with our recent empirical results from field cage experiments in the Skagerrak seagrass, where we manipulate top-down and bottom-up regulation, we conclude that lack of grazers in concert with eutrophication most likely contributed to the overgrowth by filamentous algae and disappearance of the seagrass on the Swedish west coast.

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