Zoological Studies

Vol. 60, 2021

(update: 2021.10.12)

Multiple Environmental Factors Increase the Niche Complexity and Species Diversity of Brachyuran Crabs in an Intertidal Algal Reef Ecosystem in Northwestern Taiwan

Kun-Chang Li1, Hung-Chang Liu2, and Hui-Chen Lin1,3,*

1Department of Life Science, Tunghai University, 1727, Sec.4, Taiwan Boulevard, Xitun District, Taichung City 407224, Taiwan. E-mail: kunchang.li@gmail.com (Li)
2Taiwan Academy of Ecology, 52, Yonghua St., Changhua City, Changhua County 500007, Taiwan. E-mail: labuanium@gmail.com (Liu)
3Center for Ecology and Environment, Tunghai University, 1727, Sec.4, Taiwan Boulevard, Xitun District, Taichung City 407224, Taiwan. *Correspondence: E-mail: hclin@thu.edu.tw (Lin)

Received 6 August 2021 / Accepted 6 October 2021
Communicated by Benny K.K. Chan

Algal reefs are one of the world’s rare and poorly understood ecosystems. They are mainly distributed in the Mediterranean Sea, but one notable exception—an intertidal algal reef ecosystem in northwestern Taiwan—stretches for 27 km along the coast of Taoyuan, making it probably the largest algal reef coast found in shallow water. Despite the reef’s rarity and striking characteristics, the coastal land that it is part of has undergone a series of developments and is now surrounded by industrial parks. Brachyuran crabs are one of the most abundant and visible groups of organisms in the intertidal zone. In the present study, we investigated the brachyuran crab community in this reef to provide a more detailed record of brachyuran crab species compositions in this intertidal algal reef ecosystem and illustrate the characteristics of this understudied ecosystem by comparing its species diversity and abundance with three natural variables—sampling time, tidal level, and season—in a wildlife refuge and north of the refuge. Two methods were used in the study: a qualitative method (to determine the species richness) and a quantitative method (to estimate the population density). We identified a total of 52 brachyuran species from 13 families in the habitats. The highest species richness was found in Datan G2, north of the wildlife refuge. The crab species composition in this algal reef is different from its compositions in coral and rocky reefs. Our analysis indicated that the species abundance is affected by multiple factors, and a single investigation is not enough to reflect the true population density of brachyuran crabs on this reef. In addition, we found that the sites outside the wildlife refuge were in much better condition than those in the wildlife refuge, and should therefore be included in the wildlife refuge. In particular, Datan, located north of the wildlife refuge, had the highest species richness, and the area’s species composition was different from that of the nearby wildlife refuge. Thus, we strongly recommend that a) the Datan area be protected to maintain this high crab diversity and b) further research be performed to better understand brachyuran crab biology in the intertidal algal reef ecosystem.

Key words: Algal reef ecosystem, Anthropogenic disturbance, Brachyuran crabs, Coralligenous reef, Taoyuan algal reef.

Citation: Li KC, Liu HC, Lin HC. 2021. Multiple environmental factors increase the niche complexity and species diversity of brachyuran crabs in an intertidal algal reef ecosystem in northwestern Taiwan. Zool Stud 60:73.