, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 27–39 | Cite as

Community development following removal of urchins, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, from the rocky subtidal zone of the St. Lawrence Estuary, Eastern Canada

  • John H. Himmelman
  • André Cardinal
  • Edwin Bourget
Original Papers


The role of sea urchins, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, in structuring the rocky subtidal community was examined at Anse aux Basques on the north shore of the St. Lawrence Estuary, Québec. In an experimental area, measuring 20x20 m and extending from 0 to 10 m in depth, we greatly reduced the intensity of urchin grazing by eliminating all urchins larger than 10 mm in test diameter. This area was observed for two years and compared to an adjacent control area. In the upper portion of the experimental area during the first month after urchin removal, mid-July to mid-August 1978, a dense diatom cover developed, and during the second month the diatoms were overgrown by Ulvaria obscura. After four months (November) an Alaria esculenta overstory was present from near low water level to 3 m deep. Community development was much slower at greater depths and it took a year for the Alaria zone to extend to 4–5 m deep, and two years to extend to 6 m deep. The low light penetration at this estuarine location was probably the main factor for the slow algal development at 6–10 m deep. At the end of the experiment Agarum cribrosum was second in importance after Alaria and was most common at 3 to 6 m in depth. Laminaria spp. was found in low numbers in the first year and did not show an increase during the second year. There was a dramatic increase in the number of species and abundance of algae in the experimental area. Also, there was a marked increase in many animal species, particularly Acmaea testudinalis, Mytilus edulis and Margarites helicinus, and a decrease in Metridium senile. By contrast, in the control area, the number of algal and invertebrate species remained low. In the experimental area a sharp increase in the growth rate of a cohort of very small urchins, which was not eliminated by our removal effort, demonstrated that there is strong intraspecific competition amongst urchins when the food supply is limited. In the St. Lawrence Estuary, there are few predators of urchins and the urchin dominated community appears to be a stable situation.


Control Area Hydroid Lawrence Estuary Strongylocentrotus Droebachiensis Urchin Grazing 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • John H. Himmelman
    • 1
    • 2
  • André Cardinal
    • 1
  • Edwin Bourget
    • 1
  1. 1.Département de biologie and GIROQ (Groupe interuniversitaire de Recherches océanographiques du Québec)Université LavalQuébecCanada
  2. 2.Recherche sur la pêcheEcosystème marin, Pêches et Océans CanadaCanada

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