Crab Burrowing Limits Surface Litter Accumulation in a Temperate Salt Marsh: Implications for Ecosystem Functioning and Connectivity

Authors
Gutierrez, Jorge Luis Ceferino; Jones, Clive G.; Ribeiro, Pablo Damián; Findlay, Stuart E. G.; Groffman, Peter M.
Publication Year
2018
Language
English
Format
article
Status
Published version
Description
Burial of aboveground plant litter by animals reduces the amount available for surface transport and places it into a different environment, affecting decomposition rates and fluxes of organic matter to adjacent ecosystems. Here we show that in a Southwestern Atlantic salt marsh the burrowing crab Neohelice granulata buries aboveground plant litter at rates (0.5–8 g m−2 day−1) comparable to those of litter production (3 g m−2 day−1). Buried litter has a low probability (0.6%) of returning to the marsh surface. The formation of burrow excavation mounds on the marsh surface is responsible for most litter burial, whereas litter trapped in burrows was an order of magnitude lower than rates of burial under excavation mounds. Crab exclusion markedly increased surface litter accumulation (3.5-fold in just 21 days). Tides with the potential to transport significant amounts of surface litter are infrequent; hence, most litter is buried before it can be transported elsewhere or decomposes on the surface. Crab litter burial can account for the observed low levels of surface litter accumulation in this ecosystem and likely drives organic matter transformation and export. The impacts of ecosystem engineering by this crab species are therefore substantial and comparable in magnitude to the large effects found for tropical crabs and other litter-burying organisms, such as anecic earthworms.
Fil: Gutierrez, Jorge Luis Ceferino. Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata. Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales; Argentina. Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies; Estados Unidos. Grupo de Investigación y Educación en Temas Ambientales (GrIETA) - Estación Biológica Las Brusquitas; Argentina. Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas; Argentina
Fil: Jones, Clive G.. Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies; Estados Unidos
Fil: Ribeiro, Pablo Damián. Grupo de Investigación y Educación en Temas Ambientales (GrIETA) - Estación Biológica Las Brusquitas; Argentina. Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas. Centro Científico Tecnológico Conicet - Mar del Plata. Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras. Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata. Facultad de Ciencia Exactas y Naturales. Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras; Argentina
Fil: Findlay, Stuart E. G.. Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies; Estados Unidos
Fil: Groffman, Peter M.. Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies; Estados Unidos. City University of New York; Estados Unidos
Subject
BURROW EXCAVATION
ECOSYSTEM ENGINEERING
ECOSYSTEM EXPORT
INTERNAL ECOSYSTEM FUNCTIONING
LITTER BURIAL
NEOHELICE GRANULATA
Otras Ciencias Biológicas
Ciencias Biológicas
CIENCIAS NATURALES Y EXACTAS
Access level
Restricted access
License
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/ar/
Repository
CONICET Digital (CONICET)
Institution
Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas
OAI Identifier
oai:ri.conicet.gov.ar:11336/55783