Grazing and the geographical range of seaweeds :The introduced Fucus evanescens and the newly described Fucus radicans
Along the coast of temperate oceans brown algae of the genus Fucus form dense stands on rocky shores and are keystone species of the coastal ecosystem. These large seaweeds are perennial and function as substrate for many sessile marine organisms, provide shelter for fauna and juvenile fish, and are food source. A number of abiotic (e.g. wave-exposure, salinity and substrate) and biotic (e.g. herbivory and competition) factors structures these communities and determines the abundance and composition of fucoids at each specific site. Earlier studies have shown that herbivores may reduce growth of fucoids, thus affecting their distribution, and at high densities eliminate the species from previously occupied sites. In my thesis I focused on investigating herbivore-seaweed interactions and whether such interactions could influence the geographical range limits of Fucus species. A set of laboratory bioassays and a field survey were conducted (1) to investigate the resistance to grazing by a generalist gastropod between introduced (to Sweden) and native (Iceland) Fucus evanescens (Paper I), (2) to study the distribution pattern of F. radicans and F. vesiculosus along the Swedish coast and specifically the southern limit of F. radicans, (3) to examine the abundance of herbivores in these two species, and (4) to test the hypothesis that Idotea baltica may contribute to restrict F. radicans to the Bothnian Sea (objective 2-4; Paper II). Fucus evanescens, a species that was introduced to the Swedish coast about 100 years ago, was found to be more resistant to grazing by L. littorea compared to F. evanescens from the native Icelandic populations. It was also shown to contain a higher amount of phlorotannins; a putative chemical defence to herbivory. This indicates that development of resistance to herbivory could be important for a successful introduction and survival in a new range. No gradual change in the proportion, measured as % cover of either F. radicans or F. vesiculosus was found inside the range of F. radicans and its southernmost limit was abrupt without any corresponding abrupt change in any abiotic factor, e.g. salinity. Herbivores, i.e. Idotea spp., Gammarus spp. and Theodoxus fluviatils were found to be more abundant in F. radicans than in F. vesiculosus thalli indicating a habitat preference for F. radicans. Further, Idotea baltica, whose range only overlaps with that of F. radicans in the south, was shown to prefer F. radicans over F. vesiculosus, possibly due to its lower content of phlorotannins. Based on these findings I propose that Idotea species may contribute in restricting the southern range of F. radicans, although further experiments, especially regarding competition with the larger F. vesiculosus need to be performed. In conclusion, biotic interactions e.g. the ability of to resist herbivore grazing by e.g. high phlorotannin content or having a structure less attractive as habitat to herbivores may be of importance in determining the geographic range of fucoids.
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:NATURAL SCIENCES; Biology; NATURAL SCIENCES; Biology; Terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecology; Marine ecology; non-indigenous species; phlorotannin; herbivore defense;; växtekologi; Plant Ecology
Date of Publication:01/01/2009