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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 439:73-82 (2011)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09328

Marginal populations under pressure: spatial and temporal heterogeneity of Ascophyllum nodosum and associated assemblages affected by human trampling in Portugal

Iacopo Bertocci1,*, Rita Araújo1, Stefano Vaselli1, Isabel Sousa-Pinto1,2

1CIIMAR, Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental, Rua dos Bragas, 289, 4050-123 Porto, Portugal
2Department of Botany, Faculty of Sciences, University of Porto, Rua do Campo Alegre s/n, 1191, 4169-007 Porto, Portugal

ABSTRACT: Anthropogenic disturbances are major threats to coastal biodiversity and may exert drastic effects on natural populations occurring at the borders of the geographical distribution of species, which are thus already experiencing sub-optimal environmental conditions. In this paper, we examined the effects of experimental intensities of human trampling on temporal and spatial variance of the brown seaweed Ascophyllum nodosum and associated organisms in north Portugal. This is the southernmost population of A. nodosum in Europe and shows morphological and demographic traits that are different from those of populations from more central locations within its range of distribution. Results indicated that high trampling intensity reduced the small-scale spatial heterogeneity in the abundance of A. nodosum, whose cover was stabilized around relatively low values, and of the associated red algae Polysiphonia lanosa and Rhodothamniella floridula; however, it increased the spatial variance of limpets and green foliose macroalgae of the genus Ulva. Idiosyncratic responses in temporal patterns were also documented, with high trampling intensity causing relatively larger fluctuations in the structure of whole A. nodosum associated assemblages and in the abundance of Ulva spp., and smaller fluctuations in the cover of Fucus vesiculosus. The present findings are key to predicting the relatively unstudied responses of coastal populations of A. nodosum to increasing anthropogenic disturbance and have important implications for the management and conservation of the examined population, which represents a relevant component of the biodiversity of European rocky shores.


KEY WORDS: Ascophyllum nodosum · Trampling disturbance · Marginal populations · Spatial heterogeneity · Temporal heterogeneity · Rocky intertidal


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Cite this article as: Bertocci I, Araújo R, Vaselli S, Sousa-Pinto I (2011) Marginal populations under pressure: spatial and temporal heterogeneity of Ascophyllum nodosum and associated assemblages affected by human trampling in Portugal. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 439:73-82. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09328

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