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Habitat Complexity and Invertebrate Species Richness and Abundance in Tropical Seagrass Meadows

Kenneth L. Heck, Jr. and Gregory S. Wetstone
Journal of Biogeography
Vol. 4, No. 2 (Jun., 1977), pp. 135-142
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/3038158
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3038158
Page Count: 8
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Habitat Complexity and Invertebrate Species Richness and Abundance in Tropical Seagrass Meadows
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Abstract

Two potential measures of habitat complexity, plant species number and aboveground plant biomass, are considered in relation to the species richness and abundance of motile macroinvertebrates inhabiting tropical seagrass (Thalassia testudinum (Konig)) meadows. Plant species number was not significantly related to either invertebrate species number or abundance and therefore does not appear to adequately represent habitat complexity for the invertebrate species being considered. However, aboveground plant biomass is significantly correlated with both invertebrate species number and abundance and appears to be a reasonable measure of habitat complexity for these species. A consideration of several alternative explanations for these results suggests that the significant correlation between aboveground plant biomass and invertebrate species number probably results from the addition of cryptic species which inhabit protected habitats that are formed among the foliose branches of certain plant species when they are very dense. The significant aboveground plant biomass-invertebrate abundance correlation is most likely due to the protection from predators that thick vegetation provides, but may also be partly a result of the greater plant surface area that is available for habitation in heavily vegetated areas. The results of this first step toward quantifying relationships among plants and animals in seagrass meadows clearly indicate that experimental studies are needed to differentiate conclusively among the competing explanations which seek to explain community organization in seagrass meadows.

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