Bored to Death: Community-Wide Effect of Predation on a Foundation Species in a Low-Disturbance Arctic Subtidal System


<div><p>The strength of top-down control by consumers is predicted to decrease with latitude, but most data confirming this assumption come from latitudes <60°, while empirical studies of predation in sub-arctic and arctic marine habitats are few. A barnacle <i>Balanus crenatus</i> is a native foundation species in the shallow subtidal of the White Sea (65° N), hosting a diverse (250+ species) assemblage of macrobenthic organisms. On mixed sediments live barnacles share primary substrates (shells and gravel) with numerous empty barnacle tests, 7% of which had drill holes of an unidentified origin. We manipulated the densities of (i) adult muricid whelks <i>Boreotrophon clathratus</i> (of previously unknown feeding habits), to check if they prey on barnacles, (ii) other predators to reveal their effect on juvenile <i>Boreotrophon</i>, and (iii) empty tests to assess the community-wide effect of predation on barnacles. The abundance of drilled empty tests in the field correlated with that of <i>Boreotrophon</i>. A year-long caging experiment clearly confirmed predation, showing the highest barnacle mortality and proportion of drilled tests in whelk enclosures, and the lowest — in predator exclosure treatments. <i>Boreotrophon</i> preferred the barnacles attached to conspecifics to those from primary substrates. Because of its scarcity <i>Boreotrophon</i> had a minor direct effect on barnacle abundance in the field. Yet, initially defaunated empty tests and live barnacles developed markedly different macrobenthic assemblages, suggesting a strong indirect effect of the predation. Juvenile <i>Boreotrophon</i> were 5-6 times less abundant in open and partial cages than in exclosures and enclosures, which indicates that the recruitment and, consequently, the abundance of <i>Boreotrophon</i> and its predation on <i>Balanus</i> are top-down controlled by apex predators. In contrast, in tropical and temperate intertidal the predation on barnacles is stronger and primarily limited by environmental stress and prey availability.</p></div

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oaioai:figshare.com:article/1487270Last time updated on 2/12/2018

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