Positive Environmental Impact
As an ecosystem engineer, the hydrodynamic changes, increased O2 concentrations, and habitat stabilizing effects in the subtidal and intertidal areas resulting from L. conchilega greatly increase biodiversity, abundance and biomass in surrounding environments (Van Hoey et al. 2008). Lanice conchilega increases the O2 content in its surrounding habitat by “piston-pumping” water and diffusing O2 into areas of lower O2 concentration (Forster & Graf 1995). This action also provides nutrition, as detritus and suspended particles in the water flow through the “tube” and are consumed by the worm (Buhr 1976). This polychaete will switch between suspension and detritus feeding depending upon particle predominance.
The tubes that L. conchilega build for shelter are mucus cemented structures of sand and broken shells. Resembling coral reefs, these tube colonies provide shelter for a variety of other species (Strasser & Pieloth 2001).
This bristle worm is also a reliable monitor of its environment. Weber and Ernst (1978) found higher than normal Bromophenol concentrations in L. conchilega in comparison to the surrounding water. However, they could not determine if the chemical was a bioaccumulation or a natural result of metabolism. Bromophenols are naturally antibacterial and possess enzyme and free radical uptake properties (Xu et al. 2009).
Negative Environmental Impact
Large patches of L. conchilega can cause reduced biodiversity due to their overgrowth, out-competing other organisms for food and space. Their numerous tube structures can significantly change the sediment surface nd bottom roughness; this may result in tidal changes (Van Hoey et al., 2008).
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