Bipolar patterns of intraspecific competition in bryozoans
Polar shores probably represent the most dynamic and extremely disturbed environments on the globe. Nevertheless intense battles amongst sessile organisms for space are commonplace on hard substrata, mainly between fast-growing pioneer species. In this study we examined spatial interactions in encrusting species at 3 sites within each of 2 high Arctic localities, Horsundfjord (77°N) and Kongsfjord (79°N) in Spitsbergen, and 2 Antarctic localities, Signy Island (60°S) and Adelaide Island (68°S). In both polar regions 1 to 11% of encrusting fauna were involved in intraspecific interactions. Intraspecific competition was common; it usually involved just 1 or 2 pioneer species, mainly ended in tied outcomes, and most variability was at a local scale. The proportion of intraspecific encounters varied considerably at local (km) scales (19 to 99% intraspecific at different sites), reflecting an extremely patchy environment due to ice scour. Most intraspecific encounters resulted in ties (stand-offs) and again most variability was at a local scale. Many intraspecific encounters were constructive, forming large (>1 m3) foliaceous colonies (termed bioconstructions) whose 3D structures can harbour rich biotas. In other colonies intraspecific competition caused crowding and accelerated ovicell production (reproductive activity). Homosyndrome (fusion) was not observed in the Arctic and was rare in the Antarctic, where its frequency differed significantly between competitor identities. We found that the likelihood of meeting conspecifics versus other species and of tied outcomes in encounters was related to the performance of species in interspecific competition: ties were most common, and homosyndrome only occurred in poor competitors. In the context of rapid Arctic and west Antarctic warming and ice-loading of nearshore waters, we predict strongly changing patterns of intraspecific competition. Indeed we suggest that decreased patchiness of intra- versus interspecific competition and decreased levels of intraspecific competition should be strong indicators of increases in surface water ice-loading from ice-sheet collapses.