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Caging manipulations in marine soft bottom communities importance of animal interactions or sedimentary habitat modifications


, : Caging manipulations in marine soft bottom communities importance of animal interactions or sedimentary habitat modifications. Canadian Journal of Fisheries & Aquatic Sciences 37(7): 1130-1139

Caging manipulations were performaed in 2 marine soft-bottom communities to test 2 nonexclusive hypotheses: polychaete abundance changes in cages are caused by the presence or absence of particular predators and competitors and polychaete changes in cages are caused by animals responding to cage-induced habitat modifications, especially sediment deposition and erosion. The significant changes in the polychaete community beneath a variety of cages installed on a highly wave-exposed sand bottom could not be explained by the presence or absence of predatory demersal fish. This was obtained despite the exclusion of fish which normally consume large numbers of infaunal polychaetes. A caging experiment similar to Woodin's (1974) was performed in the channel of Elkhorn Slough [California, USA] using comparable cages and similar exposure period. In Woodin's experiments, the exclusion of a sedentary tube builder was accompanied by an increase in a mobile deposit feeder. This was interpreted as a competitive release. In this experiment, no sedentary species inhabited the channel and none were excluded; this same mobile species increased inside the cages. Although the importance of potential predators and competitors was not documented in the caging experiments, all of the sand-flat and slough caging results are consistent with the hypothesis that animals respond to sedimentary habitat modifications created by cages. This hypothesis not considered in most caging experiments in marine soft-bottom communities.

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