Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 403–413 | Cite as

Interaction between isopod grazing and wave action: a structuring force in macroalgal communities in the southern Baltic Sea

  • Roland Engkvist
  • Torleif Malm
  • Jonas Nilsson


The macroalgal belt in the southern Baltic Sea may be partly structured by the interaction of physical and biological factors. A field study, spanning the 1990s, describes a rapid decline of the Fucus spp. stands along the wave-exposed Swedish southeast coast. During this period, a relative dominance of Fucus vesiculosus L. shifted to a relative dominance of Fucus serratus L. The decline of F. vesiculosus coincided with observations of large numbers of the grazing isopods Idotea baltica (Pallas) and Idotea granulosa Rathke, or with field observations of frequent grazing marks on Fucus fronds. I. baltica, but not I. granulosa, tended to aggregate in the declining Fucus spp. stands, indicating a strong preference for Fucus spp. In a mesocosm experiment I. baltica, when given a choice, grazed both Fucus species at weak water motion. At strong water motion grazing was concentrated on F. vesiculosus. It is hypothesized that one of the reasons I. baltica preferred F. vesiculosus to F. serratus at strong water motion may have been differences in habitat quality, like width of thallus, influencing the ability to cling to the plant. Smaller thallus, as in F. vesiculosus, thus is the preferred habitat for grazing of I. blatica. We postulate that the existence of F. serratus in the area may be favoured by strong wave action and moderate but not strong grazing by I. baltica, relaxing the interspecific competition from F. vesiculosus.

Experiment Idotea baltica Idotea granulosa Fucus serratus Fucus vesiculosus Scuba technique 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roland Engkvist
    • 1
  • Torleif Malm
    • 2
  • Jonas Nilsson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biology and Environmental ScienceKalmar UniversityKalmarSweden
  2. 2.Department of BotanyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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