Abundance of macrofauna in dense seagrass is due to habitat preference, not predation

Johann D. Bell*, Mark Westoby

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    193 Citations (Scopus)


    Two main hypotheses compete to explain why prey abundance decreases when seagrass density is reduced. One proposes that predators are more successful amongst seagrass of lower density; the other invokes habitat choice by prey. We reduced the density of seagrass in the presence, and in the absence, of predators in a field experiment to discriminate between these hypotheses. When seagrass was manipulated abundances of all six prey species decreased simultaneously both in the presence and in the absence of predators. We conclude that correlations of prey abundance and shoot density within a seagrass bed are proximately due to habitat preference of dense seagrass by prey. We report another experiment which supports this conclusion and shows that habitat preference is exercised at the earliest opportunity. However, the habitat preferences may have been selected by predation pressure.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)205-209
    Number of pages5
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 1986


    • field experiment
    • prey species
    • habitat preference
    • predation pressure
    • main hypothesis


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