Partitioning resilience of a marine foundation species into resistance and recovery trajectòries

Tuya, FernandoFernández-Torquemada, YolandaPilar-Ruso, Yolanda delEspino, FernandoManent, PabloCurbelo, LeticiaOtero-Ferrer, F.Ossa, José A. de laRoyo, LauraAntich, LauraCastejón-Silvo, Inés Mánez-Crespo, JuliaMateo-Ramírez, ÁngelProcaccini, GabrieleMarco-Méndez, CandelaTerrados, Jorge Tomàs, Fiona.  Oecologia : DOI:10.1007/s00442-021-04945-4 (2021)  DIGITAL CSIC 

The resilience of an ecological unit encompasses resistance during adverse conditions and the capacity to recover. We adopted a ‘resistance-recovery’ framework to experimentally partition the resilience of a foundation species (the seagrass Cymodocea nodosa). The shoot abundances of nine seagrass meadows were followed before, during and after simulated light reduction conditions. We determined the significance of ecological, environmental and genetic drivers on seagrass resistance (% of shoots retained during the light deprivation treatments) and recovery (duration from the end of the perturbed state back to initial conditions). To identify whether seagrass recovery was linearly related to prior resistance, we then established the connection between trajectories of resistance and recovery. Finally, we assessed whether recovery patterns were affected by biological drivers (production of sexual products—seeds—and asexual propagation) at the meadow-scale. Resistance to shading significantly increased with the genetic diversity of the meadow and seagrass recovery was conditioned by initial resistance during shading. A threshold in resistance (here, at a ca. 70% of shoot abundances retained during the light deprivation treatments) denoted a critical point that considerably delays seagrass recovery if overpassed. Seed densities, but not rhizome elongation rates, were higher in meadows that exhibited large resistance and quick recovery, which correlated positively with meadow genetic diversity. Our results highlight the critical role of resistance to a disturbance for persistence of a marine foundation species. Estimation of critical trade-offs between seagrass resistance and recovery is a promising field of research to better manage impacts on seagrass meadows.