MEPS 582:45-55 (2017)  -  DOI:

The invasive kelp Undaria pinnatifida hosts an epifaunal assemblage similar to native seaweeds with comparable morphologies

Rocío Suárez-Jiménez1,*, Christopher D. Hepburn2, Glenn A. Hyndes3, Rebecca J. McLeod4, Richard B. Taylor5, Catriona L. Hurd

1Department of Botany, University of Otago, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
2Department of Marine Science, University of Otago, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
3Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research, School of Science, Edith Cowan University, Perth 6027, Australia
4Department of Chemistry, University of Otago, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
5Leigh Marine Laboratory and Institute of Marine Science, University of Auckland, Leigh 0985, New Zealand
6Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, 20 Castray Esplanade, Battery Point, Hobart 7004, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Invasive seaweeds have the potential to disrupt ecosystem functioning if they are unsuitable hosts for the small mobile invertebrates (epifauna) that are an important trophic link between benthic primary producers and higher trophic levels. The Asian kelp Undaria pinnatifida has successfully invaded many coastal regions worldwide. We compared the epifaunal assemblage on U. pinnatifida with epifauna of 7 co-occurring, canopy-forming native brown seaweed species in southern New Zealand to help understand the effect of the invasive species on shallow subtidal ecosystems. The density, diversity and composition of epifauna across the 8 seaweeds were much more strongly related to host morphology than to the geographic origin of the host. U. pinnatifida and several native seaweeds with similarly simple morphologies supported relatively depauperate epifaunal assemblages dominated by copepods. More structurally complex native seaweeds supported more abundant and diverse epifaunal assemblages containing lower proportions of copepods and higher proportions of amphipods and other epifaunal groups. Our results indicate that abundances of epifauna at the ecosystem level will be reduced if U. pinnatifida displaces more structurally complex native seaweed species that host more diverse and dense epifaunal assemblages. The findings suggest that morphological complexity may be key to predicting the impacts of invasive seaweeds on epifaunal assemblages, and potentially on food webs, in other geographic regions.

KEY WORDS: Undaria pinnatifida · Epifaunal communities · Invasive seaweeds · Native seaweed · Morphological complexity · Fucales · Laminariales · Asian kelp

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Cite this article as: Suárez-Jiménez R, Hepburn CD, Hyndes GA, McLeod RJ, Taylor RB, Hurd CL (2017) The invasive kelp Undaria pinnatifida hosts an epifaunal assemblage similar to native seaweeds with comparable morphologies. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 582:45-55.

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