Mechanisms of range expansion in the intertidal brown alga Fucusserratus in northern Spain
The intertidal brown alga Fucusserratus is naturally expanding its distributional range along the north shore of Spain. Shores being colonised by F. serratus harbour saturated algal communities, with almost no free space. Processes responsible for the successful expansion were investigated in a locality where the alga was experimentally introduced. After a short period, the number of F. serratus plants increased exponentially at a monthly intrinsic rate of 0.111. At early and intermediate stages of invasion, colonisation occurred by the growth of patches of the invader around the transplant points. F. serratus is a bad disperser, with most of propagules settling in near proximity to parent plants. Colonisation of manipulated and control areas was influenced by the proximity of propagule sources. Experimental removals of canopies, irrespective of whether the turf was removed or left intact, accelerated the expansion, as this component of the community had a negative influence on recruitment of both F. serratus and F. vesiculosus. The unmanipulated algal beds were, however, invasible, as some control quadrats close (<10 m) to F. serratus patches had a 100% cover of F. serratus at the end of the study. Prior or concurrent to increases of F. serratus, a decrease in cover of F. vesiculosus and other resident macroalgae was evident. No formal competition experiment was done but results suggest that F. serratus outcompetes F. vesiculosus and Bifurcariabifurcata at mid-tidal levels. In scraped quadrats, in which both Fucus species recruited at large densities, F. serratus grew at a higher rate than F. vesiculosus and eventually monopolised the experimental surfaces.
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