MEPS 292:159-171 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps292159

Seasonal dynamics of Sargassum ilicifolium (Phaeophyta) on a shallow reef flat in the southern Red Sea (Eritrea)

M. Ateweberhan1,2, J. H. Bruggemann1,2,3,4, A. M. Breeman2,*

1Department of Marine Biology and Fisheries, University of Asmara, PO Box 1220, Asmara, Eritrea
2Department of Marine Biology, University of Groningen, PO Box 14, 9750 AA Haren, The Netherlands
3Department of Experimental Zoology, Wageningen University, PO Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands
4Present address: Laboratoire d’Ecologie marine, Université de La Réunion, BP 7151, 97715 Saint-Denis, La Réunion, France
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: The seasonality of Sargassum ilicifolium was studied in the southern Red Sea by monitoring thallus density, thallus size and the initiation, growth, reproduction and survivorship of primary laterals. Thallus density showed slight but significant seasonal variation; it was highest at the end of the hot season and lowest at the end of the cold season. Mean thallus and lateral lengths peaked in the second half of the cold season. Initiation of new laterals was highest in the first half of the cold season. High lateral densities suppressed new lateral initiation. In the first month after initiation, laterals grew out to the same length as those formed earlier in the year. Thus, elongation rates of young laterals were highest during the period of maximum canopy height. In older laterals, growth rates decreased with length, due to increased tissue loss. Growth rates were independent of reproductive status. Reproduction occurred in the second half of the cold season and was independent of lateral size, but laterals had to be at least 1 to 2 mo old before reproducing. Highest loss rates of laterals occurred at the end of the growth season. Survivorship was independent of lateral size or reproductive status. Loss rates were lowest in the hot season. We conclude that there is no direct trade-off between reproduction and growth/survival of the laterals, and that the dynamics of S. ilicifolium are directly related to the seasonal extremes in environmental conditions. Morphogenetic responses at the level of individual laterals also contribute to the overall phenological pattern.

KEY WORDS: Module dynamics · Seasonality · Growth · Size equalisation · Reproduction · Trade-off · Survivorship · Density · Phenology

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