MEPS 471:61-71 (2012)  -  doi:10.3354/meps10014

Temporal mismatches in predator–herbivore abundance control algal blooms in nutrient-enriched seagrass ecosystems

Carl Johan Svensson1,4,*, Susanne Baden2, Per-Olav Moksnes3, Per Åberg3

1Department of Physiology and Endocrinology, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Box 433, Göteborg 405 30, Sweden
2Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Kristineberg 566, Fiskebäckskil 451 78, Sweden
3Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Box 461, Göteborg 405 31, Sweden
4Present address: Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Box 434, Göteborg 405 30, Sweden

ABSTRACT: Blooming filamentous algae recurrently overgrow macroalgae and seagrass in many coastal ecosystems, leading to potential losses in the functions and services these habitats provide. The seasonal reoccurrence of algal blooms is partly caused by excessive input of nutrients into coastal ecosystems. At the same time, overfishing of top predators has led to increased densities of smaller predators that reduce herbivore abundance. Managers of coastal ecosystems are in urgent need of information on how overfishing may act synergistically with eutrophication to promote algal blooms. In the present study, we model the interaction between the opportunistic filamentous algae Ulva spp. and the effective mesograzer (small invertebrate herbivore) Gammarus locusta L. under different nutrient regimes and predation rates by intermediate-size fish (4 to 12 cm). The aim is to assess how productivity, herbivory and predation interact to regulate seasonal algal growth under a range of scenarios, including temporal matching or mismatching between trophic groups. The model is parameterised with nutrient and demographic data from a seagrass ecosystem on the west coast of Sweden. Model simulations show that both nutrient level and herbivore abundance regulate seasonal algal biomass in the seagrass meadow. Their relative importance is dynamic and sensitive to the arrival times of herbivores in relation to the start of algal development in spring. Thus, herbivore presence and timing are crucial factors for the control of algal biomass, particularly during times when resource levels are ambient to slightly elevated. Simulations also show that it is mainly the predation rate and timing of predators, rather than food limitation, that limit herbivore abundance. As predation rates by invertebrates and smaller fish can be linked to the presence of larger and commercially targeted fish, overfishing may have similar effects to eutrophication in the seagrass ecosystems.


KEY WORDS: Seagrass · Trophodynamics · Nutrient enrichment · Filamentous algae · Herbivore efficiency · Predation · Match-mismatch · Bottom-up effects · Top-down control · Overfishing


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Cite this article as: Svensson CJ, Baden S, Moksnes PO, Åberg P (2012) Temporal mismatches in predator–herbivore abundance control algal blooms in nutrient-enriched seagrass ecosystems. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 471:61-71

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