The establishment of non-native habitat-forming seaweeds into new areas may trigger important changes in ecosystem functioning, yet their community and ecosystem-level effects remain largely understudied. Here we studied the spatial distribution of two common fish species (Xyrichtys novacula and Bothus podas) which are key components of communities in unconsolidated bottoms of temperate areas regarding the colonization of the newly-introduced tropical seaweed Halimeda incrassata in the Mediterranean Sea. We used a spatially-explicit before-after-control-impact model and a unique data-set formed by 6 years of fine-scale spatial information of fish and seaweed distribution and abundance. We demonstrate a long-term alteration on the spatial distribution of X. novacula characterized by a shift towards non-native H. incrassata beds, while no effect on B. podas. The introduction of the tropical seaweed H. incrassata has led to the re-distribution of X. novacula, potentially by harbouring a greater biodiversity of species at the base of the food-web through adding biogenic structure to an otherwise bare sediment. Our work demonstrates that non-native tropical habitat-forming species have the potential to maintain or even enhance fish abundance in unconsolidated bottoms in temperate areas potentially altering the functioning of native habitats.
Biological Invasions – Springer Journals
Published: May 28, 2018
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