Disturbance, dispersal and marine assemblage structure: A case study from the nearshore Southern Ocean
Disturbance is a key factor in most natural environments and, globally, disturbance regimes are changing, driven by increased anthropogenic influences, including climate change. There is, however, still a lack of understanding about how disturbance interacts with species dispersal capacity to shape marine assemblage structure. We examined the impact of ice scour disturbance history (2009–2016) on the nearshore seafloor in a highly disturbed region of the Western Antarctic Peninsula by contrasting the response of two groups with different dispersal capacities: one consisting of high-dispersal species (mobile with pelagic larvae) and one of low-dispersal species (sessile with benthic larvae). Piecewise Structural Equation Models were constructed to test multi-factorial predictions of the underlying mechanisms, based on hypothesised responses to disturbance for the two groups. At least two or three disturbance factors, acting at different spatial scales, drove assemblage composition. A comparison between both high- and low-dispersal models demonstrated that these mechanisms are dispersal dependent. Disturbance should not be treated as a single metric, but should incorporate remote and direct disturbance events with consideration of taxa-dispersal and disturbance legacy. These modelling approaches can provide insights into how disturbance shapes assemblages in other disturbance regimes, such as fire-prone forests and trawl fisheries.
Authors: Robinson, Ben J.O., Barnes, David K.A. ORCID record for David K.A. Barnes, Morley, Simon A. ORCID record for Simon A. Morley