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Flora and fauna associated with the introduced red alga Gracilaria vermiculophylla

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This paper presents the first detailed study of the spread of the introduced marine red alga Gracilaria vermiculophylla on the west coast of Sweden, and of the fauna and flora associated with this alga in Scandinavia and the western mid-Atlantic. G. vermiculophylla was discovered in the archipelago of Goteborg, Sweden, in the summer of 2003, and in 2005 its distribution range covered at least 150 km. The species is typically found as loose-lying thalli or attached to small stones and mollusc shells within low-energy bays and estuaries. Both gametophytic and tetrasporophytic specimens were found, as well as specimens with mixed reproductive stages. In order to assess the importance of this introduced alga as a habitat for native benthic organisms, attached and loose-lying individuals of G. vermiculophylla were sampled from invaded locations in Sweden, Denmark and Virginia (United States). In total we found 92 taxa associated with G. vermiculophylla. The dominant classes were Malacostraca, Gastropoda and Florideophyceae. The diversity of the associated taxa was not affected by attachment status, or G. vermiculophylla biomass. In Virginia and Sweden animal abundances were positively correlated with the biomass of algae and plants associated with G. vermiculophylla. If G. vermiculophylla primarily invades non-vegetated soft-sediment estuaries, the invasion may lead to an increase in abundances of small native invertebrates (e.g. gastropods and crustaceans) and epiphytic algae, with likely cascading effects on higher trophic levels.
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Keywords: associated organisms; community structure; distribution; diversity; invasive alga; non-indigenous

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Marine Ecology, University of Gothenburg, SE-405 30 Goteborg, Sweden 2: Faculty of Computing, Health and Science, School of Natural Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Western Australia,Benthic Section, Marine Department, National Environmental Research Institute, University of Aarhus, Roskilde, Denmark

Publication date: August 1, 2009

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