, Volume 555, Issue 1, pp 263-269

The Colonisation of Human-made Structures by the Invasive Alga Codium fragile ssp. tomentosoides in the North Adriatic Sea (NE Mediterranean)

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Abstract

Human-made structures, such as groynes, breakwaters, seawalls, pier pilings and floating pontoons, are becoming common features of the landscape in urbanised coastal and estuarine areas. Despite this tendency few studies have focused on their ecology or on their potential impacts on natural assemblages of organisms. When artificial structures are introduced in areas with little or no hard substrata, they not only provide novel habitats, which enables the colonisation of sandy areas by hard-bottom dwelling species, but they can also provide suitable habitats for exotic species. Along the north-east coast of Italy, sandy shores are protected from erosion by a line of breakwaters, which runs almost uninterrupted for about 300 km. These structures provide habitat for a variety of macroalgae and invertebrates and also for the invasive green alga Codium fragile ssp. tomentosoides. The aim of this study was, therefore, to investigate patterns of distribution of this alga on breakwaters in Cesenatico. In particular, we compared the density of thalli, biomass, length and degree of branching of C. fragile ssp. tomentosoides between the landward and the seaward sides of breakwaters, to test the hypothesis that sheltered habitats (landward) represent more suitable habitats than exposed habitats (seaward). In general, the landward side of breakwaters supported greater numbers of thalli of C. fragile ssp. tomentosoides than seaward sides. Thalli grew longer and more branched in sheltered habitats, leading to an overall larger biomass of the alga on the landward side of breakwaters. The presence of sheltered human-made hard substrata in the vicinity of major trading ports and sources of eutrophication could enhance the dispersal of invasive species across regional and geographic scales. Thus, the effects of artificial structures and introduced species on coastal assemblages cannot be evaluated separately, but their synergistic nature should be considered in planning strategies for conservation of biodiversity in coastal habitats.