, Volume 9, Issue 5, pp 499-513
Date: 14 Nov 2006

Stress tolerance of the invasive macroalgae Codium fragile and Gracilaria vermiculophylla in a soft-bottom turbid lagoon

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Abstract

Invasive species are often hypothesized to have superior performance traits. We compared stress tolerance (as change in biomass) of the invasive macroalgae Codium fragile ssp. tomentosoides and Gracilaria vermiculophylla to the native macroalgae Fucus vesiculosus, Agardhiella subulata, Hypnea musciformis and Ulva curvata in Hog Island Bay, a shallow lagoon in Virginia, USA. We hypothesized that the success of the two aliens is due to their high tolerances of turbidity, sedimentation, desiccation, grazing and nutrient enrichment. Like many lagoons, Hog Island Bay is characterized by extensive intertidal mudflats, high turbidity and sedimentation, and high densities of omnivorous mud snails. Nutrient enrichment may also become a problem as land use practices in adjacent watersheds change. Contrary to our hypothesis, C. fragile was less resistant to sedimentation, desiccation and grazing than other algae and had low growth at all light and nutrient levels. This suggests that any superior performance of this invasive species compared to native algae is probably limited to microhabitats where stress is minimal and where bivalve shells facilitate recruitment and long-term persistence. In contrast, G. vermiculophylla was resistant to desiccation, burial and grazing, and was not negatively influenced by either high or low light or nutrient levels. These traits reflect the current success of G. vermiculophylla in already invaded lagoons and estuaries, and indicates that it will likely continue its spread in European and North American turbid and tidal soft-sediment systems.