Density-dependent biodiversity effects on physical habitat modification by freshwater bivalves

Daniel C. Allen, Caryn C. Vaughn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Several decades of research have shown that biodiversity affects ecosystem processes associated with resource capture and the production of biomass within trophic levels. Although there are good reasons to expect that biodiversity influences non-trophic ecosystem processes, such as the physical creation or modification of habitat, studies investigating the role of biodiversity on physical processes are scarce. Here we report the results of a study using artificial streams to test the influence of freshwater mussel biodiversity on gravel erosion during high flows while manipulating mussel abundance. Mussel species vary in traits that should influence their effects on erosion, such as size, shell morphology, and burrowing behavior. We found that mussel species richness was associated with an increase in erosion at both low and high densities. Planned contrasts showed that the erosion observed in species mixtures was purely additive at low density, indicating that erosion in a species polyculture could routinely be predicted by the performance of monocultures. However, at high density certain combinations of species showed nonadditive effects on erosion, suggesting that organism abundance can fundamentally alter biodiversity effects. Although this may have been a result of altered species interactions at high density, our study design cannot confirm this.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1013-1019
Number of pages7
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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