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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 200:167-175 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps200167

Variable and complementary effects of herbivores on different life stages of bloom-forming macroalgae

Heike K. Lotze*, Boris Worm

Institut für Meereskunde, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany
*Present address: Biology Department, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4J1, Canada. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: Increased nutrient loading favors macroalgal blooms in eutrophied coastal ecosystems. The main counteracting factor on this bottom-up support is top-down control by consumers. We asked (1) whether herbivore control on 2 bloom-forming macroalgae in the Baltic Sea varies between different algal life stages, (2) whether herbivores selectively feed on Enteromorpha spp. (Chlorophyceae) thereby supporting dominance of Pilayella littoralis (Phaeophyceae), and (3) whether various herbivore species differ in their effects. In comparative field and laboratory experiments, we analyzed herbivore pressure and selectivity on germling density and adult thalli of Enteromorpha spp. and P. littoralis. In the field, herbivores reduced macroalgal recruitment by 80% within 14 d indicating strong herbivore control at early life stages. Recruits of Enteromorpha spp. were significantly preferred over P. littoralis Adult thalli of both algae showed similar growth rates, but grazing rates were significantly higher on Enteromorpha spp. In laboratory experiments, Idotea chelipes (Isopoda), Littorina saxatilis (Gastropoda) and Gammarus locusta (Amphipoda) strongly reduced germling density, whereas effects of L. littorea were weak. I. chelipes and L. saxatilis significantly preferred germlings of Enteromorpha spp. over P. littoralis. I. chelipes had strong effects on adult Enteromorpha spp. but not on P. littoralis. The effects of G. locusta and L. littorea on both adult algae were smaller and not selective, and L. saxatilis did not feed on adults at all. Different herbivore feeding modes are discussed. We conclude that strong and selective herbivory on juvenile and adult Enteromorpha spp. favors dominance of P. littoralis in the Baltic. An effective control of macroalgal blooms in eutrophied areas can be supported by sustaining high herbivore density and species richness considering the variable and complementary effects of different herbivore species on different algal life stages.

KEY WORDS: Eutrophication · Macroalgal blooms · Species composition · Dominance · Grazing · Selectivity · Diversity · Feeding mode · Enteromorpha · Pilayella · Baltic Sea

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