Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 253–260 | Cite as

Density dependent grazing effects of the isopod Idotea baltica Pallas on Fucus vesiculosus L in the Baltic Sea

  • Roland Engkvist
  • Torleif Malm
  • Stefan Tobiasson


In the Baltic Sea, abiotic factors are often supposed to explain the distribution of the key species Fucus vesiculosus. Still, in many areas, decline of F. vesiculosus has coincided with mass occurrence of the herbivorous isopod Idotea baltica. The aim of this work was to examine whether, how and at what densities I. baltica can affect the distribution of F. vesiculosus in the central Baltic proper. Both large-scale field surveys and a two-week grazing experiment have been performed.

In the field survey there was a correlation between density of I. baltica and reduction in depth penetration of F. vesiculosus. At 80 animals per 100 g F. vesiculosus wet weight, the depth penetration of the F. vesiculosus belt was reduced by 2.5 m within a year. In the grazing experiment there was a correlation between density of I. baltica and loss of F. vesiculosus biomass and meristems. In the controls biomass and number of meristems increased by 50%, while at 20 animals per 100 g of F. vesiculosus there was no net growth of F. vesiculosus. Intensity of grazing did not differ between isopod densities of 20, 40 and 60/100 g. At isopod densities of 80 and 100/100 g though, biomass and meristems decreased by 50%, indicating a threshold for the survival of F. vesiculosus in the experiment. At all densities the isopods preferred younger tissue to older.

Our results indicate that grazing by Idotea baltica is an important structuring factor in the Baltic Fucus vesiculosus populations.

Baltic Sea experimental study field study Fucus vesiculosus grazing Idotea baltica 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roland Engkvist
    • 1
  • Torleif Malm
    • 2
  • Stefan Tobiasson
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Biology and Environmental ScienceUniversity of KalmarKalmarSweden
  2. 2.Department of BotanyUniversity of StockholmStockholmSweden

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