Marine Biology

, Volume 142, Issue 6, pp 1229–1241 | Cite as

Temporal and spatial variation in the density of mobile epifauna and grazing damage on the seaweed Ascophyllum nodosum

  • R. M. ViejoEmail author
  • P. Åberg


The temporal and multiple-scale spatial variation in the density of mobile epifauna and grazing damage was investigated in populations of the brown seaweed Ascophyllum nodosum (Fucales: Phaeophyta). The relationship between density of grazers and grazing marks was also analyzed. The study was carried out in two locations of the northeastern Atlantic: one at the Isle of Man, in the Irish Sea, and the other at Tjärnö, on the Swedish west coast. Furthermore, the effect of grazing marks on the probability of frond breakage was evaluated in a 1-year experiment carried out on the Isle of Man. High temporal and small-scale spatial variability was recorded in the density of mobile epifauna. A high percentage of species were herbivores, i.e. mesograzers. Adult plants of A. nodosum have several primary vegetative fronds with apical growth. Grazing marks were commonly found along the fronds. Similar levels of grazing damage were detected at the two locations, despite the observed qualitative differences in the grazing assemblages. Small-scale spatial variability in grazing marks was important, with differences in the density of grazing wounds among plants, fronds, and even within fronds. A significant correlation between the proportion of grazed apices and the density of the isopod Idotea spp. and grazing amphipods considered together was detected. This probably reflects the simultaneous feeding activity of these two groups of grazers and suggests the presence of feeding facilitation mechanisms between them. Grazing marks were concentrated in the apical part of the shoots. The results of this study also showed that grazing damage increased the probability of breakage, especially of shorter fronds. This suggests that grazing damage affects the demography of shoots and plants, increasing the transition probabilities to smaller sizes. The presence of interactive effects between grazing and plant density in these A. nodosum populations of northeastern Atlantic shores was also discussed on the basis of the results of this and a previous study.


Grazing Pressure Apical Part Small Spatial Scale Gammarid Amphipod Swedish West Coast 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank F. Arenas, J. Oliveros and C. Tendi for help in the field on the Isle of Man, R. Berg for the collection of some samples at Tjärnö and all the people at Tjärnö and Port Erin Marine Laboratories for their help and support. We are also very grateful to H.G. Hansson for help with the identification and nomenclature of animal species and to H. Pavia and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on the manuscript. This study was in part funded by the EU MASTIII project EUROROCK (MAS3-CT95-0012) and a grant from "Kapten C. Stenholms donationsfond". R.V. held a postdoctoral fellowship from the Spanish Ministry of Culture and Education.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Marine Ecology, Marine BotanyGöteborg UniversityGöteborgSweden
  2. 2.Área de Biodiversidad y Conservación, Escuela Superior de Ciencias Experimentales y TecnologíaUniversidad Rey Juan CarlosMadridSpain

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