Joint effects of patch edges and habitat degradation on faunal predation risk in a widespread marine foundation species

Kevin A. Hovel, J. Emmett Duffy, John J. Stachowicz, Pamela Reynolds, Christoffer Boström, Katharyn E. Boyer, Stéphanie Cimon, Mathieu Cusson, Fredrick Joel Fodrie, Karine Gagnon, Clara M. Hereu, Masakazu Hori, Pablo Jorgensen, Claudia Kruschel, Kun‐Seop Lee, Masahiro Nakaoka, Nessa E. O’Connor, Francesca Rossi, Jennifer Ruesink, Fiona TomasShelby Ziegler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Human activities degrade and fragment coastal marine habitats, reducing their structural complexity and making habitat edges a prevalent seascape feature. Though habitat edges frequently are implicated in reduced faunal survival and biodiversity, results of experiments on edge effects have been inconsistent, calling for a mechanistic approach to the study of edges that explicitly includes indirect and interactive effects of habitat alteration at multiple scales across biogeographic gradients. We used an experimental network spanning 17 eelgrass (Zostera marina) sites across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Mediterranean Sea to determine (1) if eelgrass edges consistently increase faunal predation risk, (2) whether edge effects on predation risk are altered by habitat degradation (shoot thinning), and (3) whether variation in the strength of edge effects among sites can be explained by biogeographical variability in covarying eelgrass habitat features. Contrary to expectations, at most sites, predation risk for tethered crustaceans (crabs or shrimps) was lower along patch edges than in patch interiors, regardless of the extent of habitat degradation. However, the extent to which edges reduced predation risk, compared to the patch interior, was correlated with the extent to which edges supported higher eelgrass structural complexity and prey biomass compared to patch interiors. This suggests an indirect component to edge effects in which the impact of edge proximity on predation risk is mediated by the effect of edges on other key biotic factors. Our results suggest that studies on edge effects should consider structural characteristics of patch edges, which may vary geographically, and multiple ways that humans degrade habitats.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere03316
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Dive into the research topics of 'Joint effects of patch edges and habitat degradation on faunal predation risk in a widespread marine foundation species'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this