Previous studies of marine soft-bottom communities have shown (1) that natural disturbances (especially biologically-mediated disturbances, which are usually localized and recur reasonably frequently) help maintain spatio-temporal heterogeneity of communities, and (2) that biogenic modification of sediment can affect sediment stability with respect to fluid forces and geotechnical properties and that this is an important factor in community organization, particularly in the trophic structure of the macrofauna. It is argued in this paper that natural disturbances, and the ensuing biogenic alterations to sediment stability, may be important in maintaining trophically-mixed communities where deposit feeders do not have an overriding influence on sedimentary properties. The hypothesis is presented that an initial post-disturbance response by micro- and meiobenthos leads to an increase in sediment stability as a result of mucous-binding of sediment, and that this stage may be of critical significance to potential suspension-feeding colonists if they are competing with deposit feeders for space. It is suggested, partly as a corollary to this hypothesis, that there may be marked differences in the structure and function of meiofaunal communities co-occurring with deposit-feeding and suspension-feeding macrofaunas. Implications for macrofaunal trophic structure of seasonal changes in sediment stability are also examined. Several areas for future research are recommended.
Probert, P. K.. 1984. "Disturbance, sediment stability, and trophic structure of soft-bottom communities." Journal of Marine Research 42, (4). https://elischolar.library.yale.edu/journal_of_marine_research/1750