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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 527:87-103 (2015)  -  DOI:

Effects of alga Fucus serratus decline on benthic assemblages and trophic linkages at its retreating southern range edge

Linney Duarte1,*, Francesca Rossi2, Cristina Docal3, Rosa M. Viejo

1Área de Biodiversidad y Conservación, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, 28933, Móstoles, Madrid, Spain
2CNRS, UMR 9190 (MARBEC), Place Eugène Bataillon, Université de Montpellier, 34095 Montpellier, France
3IMAR-CMA Instituto do Mar, Dep. Ciências da Vida, Universidade de Coimbra, 3004-517 Coimbra, Portugal
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Canopy-forming seaweeds are important coastal ecosystem engineers that sustain diverse multi-trophic assemblages. Their losses, with the subsequent reduction in habitat complexity, have been documented across many parts of the world and are often attributed to climate change and other anthropogenic factors. The general aim of the present study was to understand the repercussions of the decline of the canopy-forming alga Fucus serratus L. at its retreating southern range edge in the diversity and food-web linkages of intertidal assemblages. Few studies have attempted to document changes in benthic food webs following canopy loss. We examined the differences among southern locations situated at different distances from the range margin: those at the very edge, where F. serratus experienced a dramatic decline during recent years (marginal locations), and those where F. serratus is still dominant (central locations). Comparisons were made among locations situated at the same latitude and sharing a recent history of F. serratus dominance. Trophic relationships were analyzed using natural abundances of carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes. We report clear changes in the structure of benthic assemblages and lower trophic positioning of some consumers, suggesting an overall shrinkage of the food web length at the contracting range edge of F. serratus, which will transfer to higher trophic levels. Under present and future climatic scenarios, shifts in the distribution of coastal ecosystem engineers could entail a reorganization of local natural assemblages and food webs. More attention should be given to measure how much these shifts can modify the whole coastal food webs and their functioning.

KEY WORDS: Canopy-forming algae · Fucus serratus · Rear range edge margin · δ15N · δ13C · Stable isotope analysis · Food web

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Cite this article as: Duarte L, Rossi F, Docal C, Viejo RM (2015) Effects of alga Fucus serratus decline on benthic assemblages and trophic linkages at its retreating southern range edge. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 527:87-103.

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