The ecosystem service value of living versus dead biogenic reef
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Mixed maerl beds (corralline red algae) comprise dead thalli with varying amounts of live maerl fragments, but previously it was not known whether the presence of the live maerl increases the ecosystem service 'habitat provision' of the dead maerl for the associated epibenthos. A 'flying array' towed sled with high definition video was used to film transects of the epibenthos in dead maerl and mixed maerl beds in two locations to the north and south of the English Channel (Falmouth and Jersey). Mixed maerl beds supported greater number of taxa and abundance than dead beds in Falmouth, while in Jersey, mixed and dead beds supported similar number of taxa and dead beds had a greater abundance of epifauna. Scallops tended to be more abundant on mixed beds than dead beds. Tube worms were more abundant on mixed beds in Falmouth and dead beds in Jersey. An increasing percentage occurrence of live maerl thalli correlated with increasing number of taxa in Falmouth but not Jersey. It was concluded that while live thalli can increase the functional role of dead maerl beds for the epibenthos, this is dependent on location and response variable. As a result of this work, maerl habitat in SE Jersey has been protected from towed demersal fishing gear.
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