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Ecosystem engineering species are known to modify the physical environment, resulting in a broad number of habitat-related processes. As a consequence the structure of the associated community will be altered in terms of biodiversity, species richness and abundance. Our project will integrate two different approaches in analyzing the dynamic of the benthic communities in habitats in which ecosystem engineering is driven by climate change and bioinvasion processes. The study focuses on two shallow marine target areas, the Wadden Sea and the open North Sea.
In the Wadden Sea area the bioinvasion of the Pacific Oyster Crassostrea gigas causes a strong impact on the native Mytilus beds which were successively be transformed into Oyster-reefs. We will test (i) how this change in the ecosystem engineering species modifies the associated benthic community. Additionally, this project will (ii) investigate the potential risk whether the new created habitat with its stable and persistent substrate will facilitate other invasions with respect to climate change.
Bryozoans are an excellent group for the study of such temporal and spatial dynamics in benthic ecology. They are sessile, abundantly present in a high diversity of species and marine microhabitats, most of them calcify and their skeletal structures are usually well represented in sediments. Bryozoans indicate oceanographic conditiones either by species occurence, or by growth modifications.
Various Bryozoan microhabits will be analysed in three temporal scales:
(1) New Collections of bryozoans in various sites of the North Sea Basin (2) museum collections, documenting bryozoans under various NAO conditions since 150 years. (3) Holocene hardgrounds and shell deposits in the southern North Sea since 10500 years. These questions need to be addressed to support the value of bryozoans as microbenthic indicator of climate change.


Bitschofsky, F. & J. Scholz : Aktuopaläontologische Studien an Nordsee-Bryozoen. – SDGG Schriftenreihe der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Geowissenschaften Heft 68, GeoDarmstadt 2010: 96-97. ISBN 978-3-510-49219-0

Bitschofsky, F., Scholz, J. & S. Forster (2010) : The epizoobiontic bryozoan community of Flustra foliacea in the southern and northern North Sea Basin; Keystone Species. – Terra Nostra 2010/4: 26-27. ISSN 0946-8978.

Bitschofsky, F. (2010) : Bryozoans as indicators for oceanographic and climatic change in the North Sea.Terra Nostra 2010/4: 29-30 Geounion Alfred Wegener-Stiftung, Berlin. ISSN 0946-8978.

Bitschofsky, F., Forster, S. & J. Scholz (2011) : Regional and temporal changes in epizoobiontic bryozoan-communities of Flustra foliacea (Linnaeus, 1758) and implications for North Sea Ecology. - Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 91 (3): 423-433; DOI: 10.1016/j.ecss.2010.11.004
Link to Publication

Markert, A., Esser, W., Frank, D., Wehrmann, A. & K.-M. Exo (2013) : Habitat change by the formation of alien Crassostrea-reefs in the Wadden Sea and its role as feeding sites for waterbirds. - Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Service 131: 41-51.

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