Biological Invasions

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 765–777 | Cite as

Effects of an invasive reef-building polychaete on the biomass and composition of estuarine macroalgal assemblages

  • María Cielo BazterricaEmail author
  • Florencia Botto
  • Oscar Iribarne
Original Paper


Invasive species can transform ecological communities. Their profound effects may alter the sources and pathways of primary production. We investigated the effects of the reef forming polychaete Ficopomatus enigmaticus invasion on the biomass and distribution of estuarine macroalgae in a SW Atlantic coastal lagoon (Mar Chiquita, 37° 40′S, 57° 23′W, Argentina). Reefs built by this species serve as substrates for macroalgal development and furnish structures that modify physical and biological conditions for the surrounding benthos. We showed that (1) the red macroalga Polysiphonia subtilissima settles and grows almost exclusively on the surface of the reef, (2) the green macroalgae Cladophora sp. and Enteromorpha intestinalis are found almost exclusively in areas without reefs attached to mollusk shells and, (3) no macroalgae occur in the sediment between reefs. Manipulative experiments show that reefs provide a complex substrate for settlement and survival and therefore benefit red macroalga. These experiments also show that the invasive reef builder has negative indirect effects on green macroalgae by increasing grazing and probably by increased sedimentation between reefs. Via these direct and indirect effects, reefs change the relative biomass contribution of each macroalgal species to the overall production in the lagoon. Knowledge of these processes is important not only for predicting net effects on primary production but also because changes in macroalgal species composition may produce effects that cascade through the food web.


Coastal lagoon Macroalgae Ecosystem engineer Biological invasion 



We gratefully acknowledge our colleagues G. Álvarez, F. Álvarez, M. Bruschetti, M. Valiñas, D. Montemayor, F. Firstater, M. Addino, V. Paccotti, C. Matula and J. F. Lazarus Agudelo for their assistance; to M. L. Piritz and G. Casas for helping in macroalgae taxonomic identification; to P. Daleo, F. Hidalgo and P. Ribeiro for their statistical advice and J. Alberti for his helpful comments on the draft of this paper. We thank the Editor and two anonymous reviewers for their comments which greatly improved the manuscript. We are also grateful to D. Blanco and M. Soria for allowed us to work in the Recreo San Gabriel. Grants from the Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata (UNMDP), Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Técnica (CONICET), and Fondo Nacional para la Investigación Científica y Tecnológica (FONCyT; all to O. Iribarne) supported our work. M.C.B. was supported by a doctoral scholarship from CONICET.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • María Cielo Bazterrica
    • 1
  • Florencia Botto
    • 1
    • 2
  • Oscar Iribarne
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Departamento de Biología, Laboratorio de Ecología, FCEyNUniversidad Nacional de Mar del Plata (UNMDP)Mar del PlataArgentina
  2. 2.Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)Buenos AiresArgentina

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