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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 119:199-209 (1995)  -  doi:10.3354/meps119199

Population reductions of Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis (Echinodermata) in Norway and the distribution of its endoparasite Echinomermella matsi (Nematoda)

Skadsheim, A., Christie, H., Leinaas, H. P.

Observations of sea urchin Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis (O. F. Müller) mass mortality at Vega island in mid Norway, and reduced sea urchin density in another area 280 km (aerial line) to the south, initiated a more extensive survey of sea urchin and kelp Laminaria hyperborea (Gunn.) Foslie forest distribution along 700 km of coastline. Records of the distribution and prevalence of the nematode Echinomermella matsi Jones & Hagen, 1987, an endoparasite of S. droebachiensis, were also included as the parasite has been postulated to cause sea urchin mass mortality. Sampling was concentrated in 5 areas of coastline along mid and northern Norway. Each area was studied along a wave exposure gradient. Old kelp forests have persisted along the outermost exposed parts of the coastline despite the 20 yr population outbreak of sea urchins. Inshore of the exposed kelp zone and towards the mainland, sea urchin dominated barren grounds still persisted. The distribution and abundance of S. droebachiensis in the southernmost area (Frøya) was greatly reduced, and expansion of kelp into former barren grounds resulted. Reduced numbers of sea urchins and some macroalgal regrowth also occurred in the 2 central areas 140 and 280 km north of Frøya, whilst high population densities of small sized S. droebachiensis on 'barrens' still dominated the inner zone in the 2 northern areas. The study indicated that S. droebachiensis populations, and hence the barren ground state, may be in a labile phase along the southern 300 km of the coast, whilst its state in the northern areas seems more persistent thus far. E. matsi was not found in the southernmost area. S. droebachiensis was heavily infested in the 2 central areas. In northern areas E. matsi was found only at a few sites. The pattern of parasite occurrence and sea urchin regression makes the role of E. matsi in this process questionable and indicates that 1 or more unidentified waterborne agents have been involved.

Laminaria hyperborea . Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis . Sea urchin mortality . Kelp revegetation . Sea urchin parasite . Norway

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