MEPS 188:63-71 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/meps188063

Grazing effects of two freshwater snails on juvenile Fucus vesiculosus in the Baltic Sea

Torleif Malm1,2,*, Roland Engkvist2,3, Lena Kautsky1

1Department of Botany, University of Stockholm, 10961 Stockholm, Sweden
2Department of Science, Kalmar University, 39129 Kalmar, Sweden
3Department of System Ecology, University of Stockholm, 10961 Stockholm, Sweden

ABSTRACT: The low salinity in the non-tidal Baltic Sea excludes many species, including marine littorinoids. The only large gastropods that occur in substantial quantities in the central Baltic proper are the freshwater snails Lymnaea peregra (O.F. Müller) and Theodoxus fluviatilis (L.); both are known to consume filamentous green and brown algae. The main objective of the present study was to test the hypothesis that freshwater snails can exert substantial grazing pressure on juvenile and regenerating Fucus vesiculosus populations in the Baltic Sea. In laboratory experiments, both snail species were able to graze on F. vesiculosus germlings up to a size of approximately 0.8 to 1.0 mm. During the study period (autumn 1996 and spring and summer 1997), the largest F. vesiculosus germlings of the cohorts settled in September and May reached approximately 1.0 mm at the same time (July). Thus, to reach the 'safe' size and escape grazing requires about 8 mo for germlings settling in autumn but only 1 mo for germlings settling in spring. The survival and growth rate of new fronds from regenerating F. vesiculosus holdfasts in outdoor tank experiments were higher than for sexually recruited juveniles. After 1 yr, 95% of the holdfasts had survived, and the mean length (±SE) of the largest frond on each holdfast was 12 ± 2 mm. Grazing by L. peregra or T. fluviatilis did not affect regeneration or frond growth. During a long-term field study (1991 to 1994), an average of 8.5 ± 0.7 T. fluviatilis ind. dm-2 were found, with a maximum density of 40 ind. dm-2 in September. During a 1 yr study (1996), the average density of L. peregra was comparatively low and varied from 0.5 ind. dm-2 in April to 20 ind. dm-2 in August. The higher density found in August (L. peregra) and in September (T. fluviatilis) suggests that both species may have a grazing impact during this time. We conclude that both T. fluviatilis and L. peregra have the capacity to graze on zygotes and germlings of F. vesiculosus until they reach a safe size of approximately 0.8 to 1.0 mm. Both snail species can occasionally reach abundances high enough to affect the recruitment of F. vesiculosus. Freshwater snails do not affect the regeneration from holdfasts. However, because the time for germlings settled in autumn to reach a safe size is much longer than for germlings settled in spring, it is possible that even a low snail density has an impact on recruitment in the field. This will, however, require verification because levels of grazing activity during different times of the year are unknown.

KEY WORDS: Growth rate · Herbivory · Lymnaea peregra · Theodoxus fluviatilis

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