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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 643:115-131 (2020)  -  DOI:

Limited effects of Sargassum horneri, an invasive alga, on temperate reef fish assemblages

Samuel C. Ginther1,2,*, Mark A. Steele1

1California State University, Northridge, Department of Biology, Northridge, CA 91330-8303, USA
2Present address: Monash University, Clayton Campus, School of Biological Sciences, Clayton, Victoria 3800, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Biological invasions can dramatically affect the ecology of invaded regions, and globally have resulted in economic damages that total billions of dollars annually. In recent years, an invasive alga, Sargassum horneri, has become established and spread along the coast of southern California (USA). Using field observations and a field experiment, we explored how this non-native alga influences the structure of fish assemblages on temperate reefs in southern California where S. horneri has become prolific. Fish and algal assemblages were quantified along transects on rocky reefs at depths of 3 and 6 m at 6-8 study sites spanning 5 km on 4 occasions over 1.5 yr. Spatiotemporal variation in the fish assemblage was not strongly correlated with the abundance of invasive S. horneri over this period, although it became less variable as native giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera disappeared from the study sites due to a warm-water event, during which the invasive S. horneri became more dominant. An experiment removing a total of 4.25 t of S. horneri from 6 × 6 m plots (n = 14) revealed that the invasive alga did not affect fish abundance, species richness, species diversity (H’), or multivariate assemblage structure over a 5 mo period. Overall, we found little evidence of negative effects of S. horneri on fishes even though it drastically changed the underwater landscape. Nevertheless, we advise cautionary management actions to limit the movement of this invasive alga because its effects on other community members, such as other algal species, may be detrimental, and longer-term effects on fishes might develop.

KEY WORDS: Sargassum horneri · Fish assemblage · Macrocystis pyrifera · Santa Catalina Island · Invasive removal experiment · Kelp forest · Rocky reef · Field experiment

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Cite this article as: Ginther SC, Steele MA (2020) Limited effects of Sargassum horneri, an invasive alga, on temperate reef fish assemblages. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 643:115-131.

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