, Volume 260-261, Issue 1, pp 345-351

Interaction mechanisms between Gracilaria chilensis (Rhodophyta) and epiphytes

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Epiphytes can have a considerable effect on Gracilaria production, and Ulva is one of the commonest algal species identified as an epiphyte, reaching loads of 60% (g of epiphytes per g of Gracilaria) in the intertidal cultures of southern Chile. This study evaluates the relative importance of light reduction, addition of weight to the host thalli and nutrient depletion, as mechanisms determining the interaction effects of Ulva epiphytes on Gracilaria cultivation. Using field experiments undertaken during the main Gracilaria growth season (spring), we evaluate the mechanisms of epiphyte-host algae interaction by manipulating artificial epiphytes. The results indicate that Ulva can significantly depress Gracilaria biomass production and that the addition of weight to the host algae and the consequent dislodgement increase, appear to be the main mechanisms involved in the Ulva-Gracilaria interaction. However, the light reduction caused by the epiphytes can also partially explain the reduction in Gracilaria production. Nutrients depletion would not appear to fully account for the detrimental effects of Ulva over Gracilaria in intertidal farming areas of southern Chile.