Ecosystem services transcend boundaries: estuaries provide resource subsidies and influence functional diversity in coastal benthic communities.

PLoS ONE. 2012;7(8):e42708 DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0042708

 

Journal Homepage

Journal Title: PLoS ONE

ISSN: 1932-6203 (Online)

Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)

LCC Subject Category: Medicine | Science

Country of publisher: United States

Language of fulltext: English

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AUTHORS

Candida Savage
Simon F Thrush
Andrew M Lohrer
Judi E Hewitt

EDITORIAL INFORMATION

Peer review

Editorial Board

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Time From Submission to Publication: 24 weeks

 

Abstract | Full Text

BACKGROUND: Estuaries are highly productive ecosystems that can export organic matter to coastal seas (the 'outwelling hypothesis'). However the role of this food resource subsidy on coastal ecosystem functioning has not been examined. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We investigated the influence of estuarine primary production as a resource subsidy and the influence of estuaries on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in coastal mollusk-dominated sediment communities. Stable isotope values (δ(13)C, δ(15)N) demonstrated that estuarine primary production was exported to the adjacent coast and contributed to secondary production up to 4 km from the estuary mouth. Further, isotope signatures of suspension feeding bivalves on the adjacent coast (Dosinia subrosea) closely mirrored the isotope values of the dominant bivalves inside the estuaries (Austrovenus stutchburyi), indicating utilization of similar organic matter sources. However, the food subsidies varied between estuaries; with estuarine suspended particulate organic matter (SPOM) dominant at Tairua estuary, while seagrass and fringing vegetation detritus was proportionately more important at Whangapoua estuary, with lesser contributions of estuarine SPOM. Distance from the estuary mouth and the size and density of large bivalves (Dosinia spp.) had a significant influence on the composition of biological traits in the coastal macrobenthic communities, signaling the potential influence of these spatial subsidies on ecosystem functioning. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Our study demonstrated that the locations where ecosystem services like productivity are generated are not necessarily where the services are utilized. Further, we identified indirect positive effects of the nutrient subsidies on biodiversity (the estuarine subsidies influenced the bivalves, which in turn affected the diversity and functional trait composition of the coastal sediment macrofaunal communities). These findings highlight the importance of integrative ecosystem-based management that maintains the connectivity of estuarine and coastal ecosystems.