[PAST EVENT] Biogeographic Patterns of Ecosystem Engineers: Implications

September 14, 2012
VIMS - Watermen's Hall, McHugh Auditorium
1375 Greate Road
Gloucester Point, VA 23062Map this location
Presenter: Sarah (Sally) Woodin, Professor, University of South Carolina

Title: Biogeographic Patterns of Ecosystem Engineers: Implications

Reception at 3:00 p.m. in the lobby of Watermens' Hall
Seminar from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in McHugh Auditorium

Dr. Woodin and colleagues have been looking at patterns of distribution of several types of species, dominant benthic space occupiers such as barnacles and mussels, as well as organisms with activities that alter the structure of the habitat such as large tube builders and hydraulically active species in sediments. They have done most of this work on the European Atlantic coast since, due to upwelling zones, the coast is a mosaic allowing multiple spatial tests of predictions. Additionally the historical record of species ranges from Portugal north is more extensive than almost any other location.

Their approach has been several fold: first, establish from the literature the historical pattern of distribution for each species; second, establish the current distribution; third, based on the information available for the species, predict the likely causal agent of success or failure and incorporate that into a population dynamics model; fourth, test the model by predicting historical distributions based on physical hindcasts and nowcasts of environmental conditions; fifth, use the verified model to predict future changes. They are now asking how resets of limits occur via extraordinary weather events like the 2009 and 2010 winters in Europe and also what the implications are for community change as a function of our predictions of range changes.

Some of the taxa that are very interesting in this regard are the species living in sediments that actively pump water into and out of the sediment, those with hydraulic activities. Among the most active taxa in this group are the tellinid bivalves, the arenicolid polychaetes, and the thalassinid crustaceans. Among the plethora of species with evidence of significant range contractions along the European Atlantic coast are the tellinid bivalve Macoma balthica and the arenicolid polychaete Arenicola marina; both are active and important modifiers of the sedimentary environment via their hydraulic activities. A taxon that has been expanding is a large tube-building polychaete Diopatra which is functionally a very different modifier of habitats. I will illustrate the implications of this shift in community drivers.


Dr. Woodin received her B.A. (cum laude) from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland, and her Ph.D. from the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. She also received the Recognition Award for Young Scholars from the American Association of University Women, is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and was selected as one of the five "Giants of Ecology" of the Friday Harbor Laboratories at their 100th anniversary celebration. From 2005 to 2007 she was also the President of the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology. Her research focuses on climate change and biogeography, specifically the effects of extreme events, as well as linking infaunal hydraulic activities, porewater flow, and biogeochemical processes in marine sediments.

[[seitz, Rochelle Seitz]] at 804-684-7698