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Dynamique de répartition et mécanismes de défense des macrophytes de la zone infralittorale rocheuse dominée par l'oursin vert, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis

by Gagnon, Patrick

Abstract (Summary)
In the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence, the green sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, is the dominant herbivore in the rocky subtidal zone. Its impact on the structure and dynamics of algal communities is, however, poorly known. The objective of my study was to characterize the dynamics in the distribution and abundance of macrophytes in the rocky subtidal zone in the Mingan Islands, and to examine the mechanisms of defense that allow dominant macrophytes to resist urchin grazing. Observations and experiments at eight sites over periods of up to two years indicated that the position of the lower limit of the kelp beds varied markedly through time and among sites and was largely controlled by urchin grazing. Ice souring and the formation of algal barriers that reduced urchin displacement likely affected this variation. In the barrens zone, there was a high temporal stability in the distribution and abundance of the perennial phaeophyte Agarum cribrosum. The aggregation of A. cribrosum into patches resilient to small disturbances enhanced algal recruitment, notably that of the rhodophyte Ptilota serrata. The avoidance of urchin grazing by juveniles of A. cribrosum was related to their association with the annual phaeophyte Desmarestia viridis. For juveniles, the cost of a reduced growth under a D. viridis canopy was clearly outweighed by the benefit of reduced urchin grazing. Laboratory experiments established that the repulsion of urchins by D. viridis was primarily due to the sweeping motion of the alga resulting from the interaction between its delicately-branched morphology and wave action and, to a lesser extent, by its chemical make-up. Urchin attacks on D. viridis increased with urchin density, but decreased with increased water motion.
This document abstract is also available in French.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Himmelman, John; Johnson, Ladd Erik

School:Université Laval

School Location:Canada - Quebec / Québec

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:biologie

ISBN:

Date of Publication:12/01/2003

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