Wangensteen, Owen S.; Turon, Xavier; Palacín, Cruz. Metabarcoding Techniques for Assessing Biodiversity of Marine Animal Forests, in: Marine Animal Forests.The Ecology of Benthic Biodiversity Hotspots. Springer International Publishing. p.1-24 (2017) DIGITAL CSIC
Competition, predation, and facilitation mechanisms are the major drivers of biodiversity and community structure in marine benthic ecosystems. Habitat complexity is a determining factor of faunal richness and biodiversity in these communities. The structure of marine animal forests is originated by living threedimensional aggregations of modular animals. The persistence of these systems through time relies on the growth of existing individuals and the recruitment of new ones. Therefore, the present and future health of these valuable ecosystems may depend on the reproductive success of a few vulnerable species which might often be accomplished only under strict or very narrow conditions. Reproductive patterns of ecosystem engineers play a crucial role in determining the structure, function, and distribution of all kinds of marine animal forests at different scales. The reproductive strategies of these habitat-forming species may vary considerably. Though most ecosystem-engineering species are, to some extent, able to reproduce asexually, their sexual reproductive strategies are diverse. Dispersal ability strategies are selected as an adaptation to spatial heterogeneity and habitat stability and are important factors for the resilience of the ecosystems. Dispersal traits are essential for both small-scale population structuring and connectivity among distant populations. Disturbed habitats may be promptly recolonized by species with long-distance dispersal capability, but recolonization by species with low dispersal capacity might limit the full restoration of a disturbed ecosystem, especially in fragmented habitats with reduced connectivity between patches. Due to the lack of knowledge on the reproductive cycles of many marine invertebrates, the response of animal forest ecosystems to global change is, in general, unpredictable.