, Volume 138, Issue 2, pp 223–230 | Cite as

Chemical settlement inhibition versus post-settlement mortality as an explanation for differential fouling of two congeneric seaweeds

  • Sofia A. WikströmEmail author
  • Henrik Pavia
Population Ecology


It has been proposed that seaweed secondary metabolites, e.g. brown algal phlorotannins, may have an ecologically important function as a chemical defence against epiphytes, by acting against colonisation of epiphytic organisms. We tested whether the low epiphytic abundance on the invasive brown seaweed Fucus evanescens, compared to the congeneric F. vesiculosus, is due to a more effective chemical defence against epiphyte colonisation. A field survey of the distribution of the common fouling organism Balanus improvisus (Cirripedia) showed that the abundance was consistently lower on F. evanescens than on F. vesiculosus. However, contrary to expectations, results from experimental studies indicated that F. vesiculosus has a more effective anti-settlement defence than F. evanescens. In settlement experiments with intact fronds of the two Fucus species, both species deterred settlement by barnacle larvae, but settlement was lower on F. vesiculosus both in choice and no-choice experiments. Phlorotannins from F. vesiculosus also had a stronger negative effect on larval settlement and were active at a lower concentration than those from F. evanescens. The results show that Fucus phlorotannins have the potential to inhibit settlement of invertebrate larvae, but that settlement inhibition cannot explain the lower abundance of the barnacle Balanus improvisus on F. evanescens compared to F. vesiculosus. Assessment of barnacle survival in the laboratory and in the field showed that this pattern could instead be attributed to a higher mortality of newly settled barnacles. Observation suggests that the increased mortality was due to detachment of young barnacles from the seaweed surface. This shows that the antifouling mechanism of F. evanescens acts on post-settlement stages of B. improvisus.


Antifouling  Balanus improvisus Epiphytes  Fucus Phlorotannins 



We thank G. Toth for help with the phlorotannin analyses and G. Nylund, G. Toth and two anonymous referees for comments which led to improvement of the manuscript. Financial support was provided by The Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (MISTRA), The Swedish Research council through contract 621–2002–289; the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund, Objective 2 West Sweden; and the Stockholm Marine Research Centre.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BotanyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  2. 2.Tjärnö Marine Biological Laboratory, Department of Marine EcologyGöteborg UniversityStrömstadSweden

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