Nutrient enrichment is a major threat to subtidal macroalgal forests. Several studies have shown that nutrient inputs can enhance the ability of opportunistic algal species to acquire space freed by disturbance, at the expense of architecturally complex species that form forests. However, competition between canopy- and turf-forming macroalgae is not limited to the aftermath of disturbance. Canopy-forming macroalgae can provide suitable substratum for diverse epibiont assemblages, including both algae (epiphytes) and sessile invertebrates (epizoans). Despite evidence of enhanced epiphyte loading under eutrophic conditions, few experimental studies have assessed how nutrient enrichment influences the structure of epibiont assemblages on canopy-forming macroalgae at the edge versus inside forests. In oligotrophic waters of the NW Mediterranean, we experimentally tested the hypothesis that nutrient-driven proliferation of opportunistic epiphytic algae would affect the performance of the fucoid, Carpodesmia brachycarpa, and reduce the richness and abundance of the epizoan species they support. We predicted negative effects of nutrient enrichment to be greater at the edge than inside forests and on thalli that had recovered in cleared areas than on those within undisturbed canopy stands. Nutrient enrichment did not affect the photosynthetic efficiency and reproductive output of C. brachycarpa. By contrast, it enhanced herbivore consumption and decreased the cover and diversity of epizoans at forest edges, likely by stimulating the foraging activity of Arbacia lixula, the most abundant sea urchin in adjacent encrusting coralline barrens. Fertilization of areas inside forests had no effect on either C. brachycarpa or epibiont assemblages. Finally, nutrient enrichment effects did not vary between cleared and undisturbed areas. Our results show that moderate nutrient enrichment of oligotrophic waters does not necessarily cause the proliferation of epiphytes and, hence, a strengthening of their competitive effects on canopy-forming macroalgae. Nevertheless, enhanced herbivory damage to fertilized thalli at forest edges suggests that fragmentation could reduce the resilience of macroalgal forests and associated epibiont assemblages to nutrient enrichment.

Nutrient enrichment stimulates herbivory and alters epibiont assemblages at the edge but not inside subtidal macroalgal forests

Bulleri F.
Primo
;
Pardi G.;Tamburello L.;Ravaglioli C.
2020-01-01

Abstract

Nutrient enrichment is a major threat to subtidal macroalgal forests. Several studies have shown that nutrient inputs can enhance the ability of opportunistic algal species to acquire space freed by disturbance, at the expense of architecturally complex species that form forests. However, competition between canopy- and turf-forming macroalgae is not limited to the aftermath of disturbance. Canopy-forming macroalgae can provide suitable substratum for diverse epibiont assemblages, including both algae (epiphytes) and sessile invertebrates (epizoans). Despite evidence of enhanced epiphyte loading under eutrophic conditions, few experimental studies have assessed how nutrient enrichment influences the structure of epibiont assemblages on canopy-forming macroalgae at the edge versus inside forests. In oligotrophic waters of the NW Mediterranean, we experimentally tested the hypothesis that nutrient-driven proliferation of opportunistic epiphytic algae would affect the performance of the fucoid, Carpodesmia brachycarpa, and reduce the richness and abundance of the epizoan species they support. We predicted negative effects of nutrient enrichment to be greater at the edge than inside forests and on thalli that had recovered in cleared areas than on those within undisturbed canopy stands. Nutrient enrichment did not affect the photosynthetic efficiency and reproductive output of C. brachycarpa. By contrast, it enhanced herbivore consumption and decreased the cover and diversity of epizoans at forest edges, likely by stimulating the foraging activity of Arbacia lixula, the most abundant sea urchin in adjacent encrusting coralline barrens. Fertilization of areas inside forests had no effect on either C. brachycarpa or epibiont assemblages. Finally, nutrient enrichment effects did not vary between cleared and undisturbed areas. Our results show that moderate nutrient enrichment of oligotrophic waters does not necessarily cause the proliferation of epiphytes and, hence, a strengthening of their competitive effects on canopy-forming macroalgae. Nevertheless, enhanced herbivory damage to fertilized thalli at forest edges suggests that fragmentation could reduce the resilience of macroalgal forests and associated epibiont assemblages to nutrient enrichment.
Bulleri, F.; Pardi, G.; Tamburello, L.; Ravaglioli, C.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11568/1058824
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