The large scale ecosystemic engineering of greater flamingos and fiddler crabs fosters the joint availability of food in West Africa’s intertidal mudflats

In ecology, the concept of ecosystem engineer is most common, unlike the concept of joint engineering operated by several species on a large scale.

In order to understand how the coexistence of greater flamingos (Phoenicopterus roseus) and fiddler crabs (Uca tangeri) contributes to making food available both for themselves and other species through the creation of a complex mosaic of depressions (basins and runnels) and hummocks (plateaus and hills) in the intertidal area, field visits and experience of exclusion were carried out.

It was found that mosaics in the Banc d’Arguin National Park were the outcome of a three-directional loop between engineering organisms, consisting of greater flamingos and crabs, biofilms and hydrodynamism. Retroactive in nature, this can be considered as the first example of an autocatalytic marine ecological loop in which greater flamingos and crabs, on the one hand, and biofilms, on the other, mutually foster the recycling of the components and productivity of the environment.

Moreover, the study underscored that many ecological interactions could only be proven in intact habitats where organisms can live in harmony.