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The rocky shores of the north-east Atlantic have been long studied. Our focus is from Gibraltar to Norway plus the Azores and Iceland. Phylogeographic processes shape biogeographic patterns of biodiversity. Long-term and broadscale studies have shown the responses of biota to past climate fluctuations and more recent anthropogenic climate change. Inter- and intra-specific species interactions along sharp local environmental gradients shape distributions and community structure and hence ecosystem functioning. Shifts in domination by fucoids in shelter to barnacles/mussels in exposure are mediated by grazing by patellid limpets. Further south fucoids become increasingly rare, with species disappearing or restricted to estuarine refuges, caused by greater desiccation and grazing pressure. Mesoscale processes influence bottom-up nutrient forcing and larval supply, hence affecting species abundance and distribution, and can be proximate factors setting range edges (e.g., the English Channel, the Iberian Peninsula). Impacts of invasive non-native species are reviewed. Knowledge gaps such as the work on rockpools and host–parasite dynamics are also outlined.
Competition plays an important role in invasion dynamics. According to Elton's biodiversity and invasibility hypothesis, non-native species must be competitively superior to the resident species in order to successfully invade. An invader that is ecologically similar to a native species may cause intense interspecific competition as they both require the same resource. Furthermore, an increase in the density of an invading competitor may enhance the intensity of the competitive interaction, however, this may be reduced if the inferior competitor has a refuge that reduces the amount of time it is in direct contact with the superior competitor. In laboratory-based competition experiments between the non-native caprellid Caprella mutica and two ecologically similar native caprellids Caprella linearis and Pseudoprotella phasma, C. mutica successfully displaced both species from homogeneous artificial habitat patches after 48 hours. Patches that contained a refuge reduced the number of C. linearis being displaced but only when C. mutica was at a low density. Potentially aggressive interactions between C. mutica and the native C. linearis may have caused C. linearis to be displaced from the patches and could have caused significantly higher mortality of C. linearis compared to the controls. This is the first study to show that the non-native C. mutica has the ability to displace ecologically similar native species when the resource space is limited and when the density of C. mutica was significantly (10 times) lower than the density of C. linearis.
Buried individuals of the bivalve Donax vittatus (Bivalvia: Donacidae) respond to change in incident light intensity by adjusting their position in the sediment. Video recordings of activity in aquarium tanks in natural daylight revealed that individuals responded to shading by moving upwards, causing some to partially emerge from the sand. Subsequent removal of the shading stimulated reburial to the normal position. Recordings in laboratory aquaria show similar upward movement and partial emergence occurring when illumination in the visible range is switched off. Upward movement and partial emergence of D. vittatus has also been observed to take place prior to spawning.
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