Monitoring spatio-temporal variation in molluscan grazing pressure in seasonal, tropical rock pools

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Abstract

In Hong Kong, low-shore rock pools support a patchy mosaic of different successional stages of crustose coralline algae. Echinoid and molluscan grazers are abundant in these low-shore rock pools and spatial and temporal variation in grazing pressure is thought to play an important role in structuring these assemblages. Direct records of graze marks using a modified wax-disc method were used to monitor spatial (different pools) and temporal (periods, 3 or 4 days each; spring vs. neap tides; summer vs. winter) variations in grazing pressure. Radula marks of Chlorostoma argyrostoma, Lunella coronata and Nerita albicilla were common in all pools. Grazing pressure was highly variable with tidal state and season but also within these two factors. Lunella and Nerita exerted highest grazing pressure at neap tides during summer, whilst Chlorostoma exerted highest grazing pressure in winter. Although overall patterns of temporal variation were similar and consistent in all pools, there was between pool variation in grazing pressure and individual species showed different patterns. Within the seasonal and tidal variations, large period-to-period differences were found for all species, illustrating small-scale temporal variation. Fine-scale spatial and temporal patterns of variation in grazing pressure of different species, therefore, contribute to the highly dynamic nature of these low-shore rock pools.

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