Community assembly of benthic invertebrates on island-like marine hard substrata
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Most of the seafloor is soft sediment, so hard substrata are isolated and island-like. In this dissertation, I explore how species distribution patterns on isolated marine hard substrata resemble terrestrial island communities, drawing on classical island biogeography theory and assembly rules, and describe how benthic invertebrate communities assemble in these island-like habitats. Higher species richness occurred on larger substrata (dropstones and shipwrecks), paralleling terrestrial island communities. However, while larger islands have greater habitat diversity and primary productivity, marine hard substrata are simpler habitats. Greater elevation in the benthic boundary layer may expose fauna to faster current, higher food supply and larval flux. Substrata located closer together had more similar communities, another pattern that resembles terrestrial islands. Dropstone fauna had a clumped distribution, indicating that larvae may disperse among substrata located close together, resulting in similar communities. In Svalbard fjords, benthic megafaunal communities were significantly different between Arctic- and Atlantic-influenced fjords. Depth and temperature had the greatest influence, with the highest diversity occurring in cold Rijpfjorden and on the north Svalbard shelf. Recruitment in Svalbard fjords was spatially and temporally variable, with lower recruitment in Rijpfjorden than in Atlantic-influenced fjords and lower recruitment at greater depth. Most of the recruits in Svalbard fjords were fast-growing, poor-competitive opportunists. On shipwrecks, communities showed two mechanisms of colonization: mobile fauna with long-dispersing planktotrophic larvae, and encrusting fauna with lecithotrophic larvae. Encrusting species reproduce asexually to cover the wreck surface, and philopatry may build up dense populations, leading to uneven communities. On terrestrial islands, non-random co-occurrence is attributed to interspecific competition, but for marine substrata, there may not be a relationship. Fauna were distributed randomly on settlement plates in Svalbard fjords, even when interspecific competition was observed. On dropstones, some morphotypes co-occurred non-randomly in the absence of overgrowth competition. Non-random co-occurrence on isolated marine hard substrata may be a result of restricted larval dispersal (for pairs co-occurring less than by chance) or epibiontism (for pairs co-occurring more often than by chance). While species distribution patterns on island-like marine hard substrata resemble terrestrial islands, the mechanisms are not necessarily the same.