Data from: Sea urchins mediate the availability of kelp detritus to benthic consumers
Yorke, Christie E.; Page, Henry M.; Miller, Robert J. (2019), Data from: Sea urchins mediate the availability of kelp detritus to benthic consumers, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.38m3dc6
Detritus can fundamentally shape and sustain food webs, and shredders can facilitate its availability. Most of the biomass of the highly productive giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, becomes detritus that is exported or falls to the seafloor as litter. We hypothesized that sea urchins process kelp litter through shredding, sloppy feeding, and egestion, making kelp litter more available to benthic consumers. To test this we conducted a mesocosm experiment in which an array of kelp forest benthic consumers were exposed to 13C- and 15N-labeled Macrocystis with or without sea urchins, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, present. Our results showed that several detritivore species consumed significant amounts of kelp, but only when urchins were present. Although they are typically portrayed as antagonistic grazers in kelp forests, sea urchins can have a positive trophic role, capturing kelp litter before it is exported and making it available to a suite of benthic detritivores.
National Science Foundation, Award: 0962306