Marine Biology

, Volume 102, Issue 4, pp 565-572

First online:

Abundance of Fucus spiralis and ephemeral seaweeds in a high eulittoral zone: effects of grazers, canopy and substratum type

  • A. R. O. ChapmanAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Dalhousie University

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According to a widely accepted view of intertidal community organization in the north-west Atlantic Ocean, the abundance of perennial seaweeds is regulated by the activities of herbivores (which control ephemeral algal competitors) and carnivores (which control populations of competing filterfeeders). This concept was examined in 1987–1988 in a eulittoral belt on the Atlantic shores of Nova Scotia, Canada, dominated by a closed canopy of Fucus spiralis. A factorial design was used to test the effects of (a) grazers (there were no carnivores present, (b) adult F. spiralis canopy, and (c) substratum type on the abundance of perennial and ephemeral seaweeds. Grazers had no significant (p>0.05) effect on the density or cover of juvenile F. spiralis, but significantly reduced canopy cover of adults through the winter. The presence of grazers significantly enhanced the cover of ephemeral algae in early spring. Barnacle presence enhanced the cover of juvenile F. spiralis, but reduced the canopy of adult plants through abrasion. The most important regulator of recruitment density in F. spiralis was the presence of a canopy of conspecific adults. Canopy greatly reduced juvenile development. There was no significant relationship between the covers of perennial F. spiralis and ephemeral seaweeds. This study demonstrates that the recruitment of the perennial rockweed population examined is not dependent on the activities consumer animals. The results contrast with work in the midshore intertidal of New England, where the activities of herbivores are thought to regulate the abundances of perennial seaweeds.