In marine soft-sediment habitats, the sediment surface is altered by activities of sediment dwellers (infauna). Such biogenic disturbance can influence recruitment success if settling larvae and juveniles avoid disturbed sites or if juveniles die as a result of disturbance after settling. Because infauna commonly lose exposed body parts to browsing predators and disturb less sediment as a result, we developed a simulation model to examine the interactions between browsing predation, infaunal adult activity, and recruitment. Sediment disturbance in the model was based on data for the polychaete Abarenicola pacifica. We simulated the activity of two general types of predators: prey nippers, which damaged adults only, and sediment biters, which damaged adults and consumed settled juveniles. As both types of predation rates increased, habitat rejection by settlers decreased, but juvenile mortality increased as settlers landing near damaged adults were killed when those adults resumed activity. When prey nippers were active, the interaction between predation and infaunal activity determined recruitment success, and juvenile mortality was highest at intermediate predation rates. When sediment biters were active, they controlled recruitment success by directly consuming larvae. At low adult worm densities, habitat rejection by settlers and juvenile mortality were both low, and browsing predation did not affect recruitment success. At higher adult densities, net recruitment success increased with the rate of predation by prey nippers (the magnitude of increase depended on bite rate and the length of time juveniles were susceptible to mortality), but it was never enhanced by sediment biters.
The American Naturalist, ed. C. Drew Harvell, Volume 148, Issue 4, 1996, pages 684-699.
© 1996 by the University of Chicago Press