Positive effects of the introduced green alga, Codium fragile ssp. tomentosoides, on recruitment and survival of mussels
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- Bulleri, F., Airoldi, L., Branca, G. et al. Marine Biology (2006) 148: 1213. doi:10.1007/s00227-005-0181-4
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The green macroalga, Codium fragile ssp. tomentosoides, is an important component of sheltered low-shore assemblages on breakwaters along sandy shores in the northern Adriatic Sea. Macroscopic thalli of C. fragile are not perennial, but develop from propagules and/or undifferentiated forms in early spring, when the dominant native space-occupier, the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis, recruits. By mid-summer, rapid growth of C. fragile leads to the formation of a dense canopy. We investigated the effects of juvenile and adult thalli of C. fragile on recruitment, survival and growth of mussels. Two experiments tested the hypotheses: (1) that recruitment of mussels is greater within patches of juvenile thalli (primordia) of C. fragile than on adjacent bare surfaces; (2) that the presence of a canopy of C. fragile affects the survival and growth of mussel recruits. The number of recruits of mussels was significantly larger within clumps of primordia of C. fragile than on bare surfaces. The removal of the canopy of C. fragile affected negatively the density of mussels after 2 months from the start of the experiment, but there were no effects on the mean size of individuals, nor on the size–frequency distribution. The same trend persisted after 4 months from the start of the experiment. These results show that re-colonisation of space by mussels is enhanced by C. fragile. Given that mussels, in turn, have the potential to reduce recruitment rates of C. fragile, quick recovery of mussel beds after disturbances could be crucial for controlling the abundance of this alga on breakwaters. Results also suggest that the effects of introduced species on native assemblages can be explained only through studies encompassing different life-stages of interacting organisms.