Experimental and survey-based evidences for effective biotic resistance by predators in ports
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Of the suite of species interactions involved in biotic resistance to species invasions, predation can have complex outcomes according to the theoretical and empirical framework of community ecology. In this study, we aimed to determine the likelihood of consumptive biotic resistance within fouling communities in four ports of central Chile. Notably, we examined the influence of micro- (> 1–2 mm, < 1–2 cm) and macro- (> 1–2 cm) predators, with a particular focus on their effects on non-indigenous species (NIS). Experimental and observational approaches were combined. An exclusion experiment was carried out over 4 months to examine predator effect on the early establishment of new assemblages on settlement panels. Later successional stages upon panels were examined over a total of 26 months and supported by rapid assessment surveys in the surrounding habitats. Community structure was significantly influenced by the exclusion treatments. Macropredators reduced the fouling biomass and abundance, although conflicting patterns emerged from the exclusion of both categories of predators. Altogether, predators reduced the abundance of most NIS and cryptogenic species, some of them being only observed when the two categories of predators were excluded—a pattern generally sustained over the long-term dynamics in community development. Our results show an effective consumptive biotic resistance, furthermore possibly dependent on predator size. Further work is however needed to determine the influence of the functional diversity of natural enemies on the efficiency of biotic resistance and its interplay with other biotic interactions (competition or mutualism). A comprehensive understanding of these processes should in turn help defining management strategies in a context of habitat modification and species loss.