Biogenic reefs as structuring factor in Pleuronectes platessa (Plaice) nursery
Rabaut, M.; Van de Moortel, L.; Vincx, M.; Degraer, S. (2009). Biogenic reefs as structuring factor in Pleuronectes platessa (Plaice) nursery, in: Rabaut, M. Lanice conchilega, fisheries and marine conservation: Towards an ecosystem approach to marine management. pp. 111-121
In: Rabaut, M. (2009). Lanice conchilega, fisheries and marine conservation: Towards an ecosystem approach to marine management. PhD Thesis. Ghent University: Gent. ISBN 978-90-8756-025-6. xvii, 354 pp.
The structural distribution of juvenile flatfish in nursery areas is generally studied on a larger scale on which the effects of abiotic factors such as sediment characteristics, beach profile, tides, and turbidity dominate. The biotic structuring factor has never before been investigated from a very small scale-perspective. The latter is the subject of the present study. In an in situ experimental sampling design, the structuring effect of biogenic reefs on the distribution of Pleuronectes platessa (Plaice) in an intertidal nursery area is investigated. The density distribution of this flatfish species is significantly (p < 0.0001) explained by the presence of reefs built up by the polychaete Lanice conchilega. The importance of this reef builder has been highlighted before in other studies but present study demonstrates that not only the benthic biodiversity is affected by L. conchilega reefs, but that the distribution pattern of P. platessa is structured by them as well. This structuring impact of small-scale benthic reefs creating a patchy environment in nursery areas potentially plays an important role in other marine environments and indicates the need for further research on the ecological function of benthic reef environments for several flatfish species. Further modification of these biogenic habitats may lead to a loss of one or more ecosystem functions which flatfish species depend on.