Abstract Effects of two presumably dominant competitors, the blue mussel Mytilus edulis and the barnacle Balanus improvisus on recruitment, population dynamics and community structure on hard substrata were experimentally investigated in the subtidal Kiel Fjord, Western Baltic. The hypothesis that blue mussels and/or barnacles are local dominants and strongly influence succession and community structure was tested by monitoring succession in the presence and absence of simulated predation on either or both species. Manipulations included blue mussel removal, barnacle removal, combined blue mussel and barnacle removal, as well as a control treatment for natural (non-manipulated) succession. In the second part of the experiment, recovery from the treatments was monitored over 1 year. During the manipulative phase of the experiment, blue mussels had a negative effect on recruitment of species, whereas barnacles had no significant effect. Even so, a negative synergistic effect of blue mussels and barnacles was detected. Calculation of species richness and diversity H′ (Shannon Index) showed a negative synergistic effect of blue mussels and barnacles on community structure. Additionally, diversity H′ was negatively affected by the dominant competitor M. edulis. These effects were also detectable in the ANOSIM-Analysis. The non-manipulative phase of the experiment brought about a drastic loss of diversity and species richness. Blue mussels dominated all four communities. Barnacles were the only other species still being able to coexist with mussels. Effects of simulated predation disappeared fast. Thus, in the absence of predation on blue mussels, M. edulis within a few months dominates available space, and diversity of the benthic community is low. In contrast, when mussel dominance is controlled by specific predators, more species may persist and diversity remains high.