Landscapes of facilitation: Long- range species interactions on intertidal flats

Activity: Talk and presentationAcademic presentationAcademic


The past decade we have come to realise that positive species interactions are important biological drivers that structure many habitats. Recent research has highlighted indirect positive effects of facilitation between species – so called facilitation cascades - where a foundation species provides habitat for another foundation species, which in turn facilitates communities of associated organisms. These interactions can take place over both short- and long-range spatial scales, spanning from a few centimetres up to hundreds of meters. Here, I demonstrate that intertidal mussel beds instigate long-range facilitation cascades across the tidal flat by supplying substrate, refuge and stress relief;creating a unique (milder) habitat in their wake where benthic species settle. We show higher cockle densities and algae cover in the mussel bed’s wake and increased biodiversity compared to areas without the mediating effects of a mussel bed. Also, decreased cockle growth rates were found coastward of the mussel bed, likely due to food limitation by the filter-feeding mussels. The necessity of taking long-range facilitative interactions between species into account is unquestionable when looking at habitat or ecosystem scales. Doing so will result in a better understanding of species’ spatial distributions, which is essential in developing fitting management plans.
Event titleNetherlands Annual Ecology Meeting 2018
Event typeConference
Conference number11
Organiser Netherlands Ecological Research Network (NERN)
LocationLunteren, NetherlandsShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational