Fucus vesiculosus and F. radicans (Phaeophyceae) are important habitat-formers on rocky shores in the Bothnian Sea. While both species occur sympatrically along the entire western Bothnian Sea coast, F. radicans has been found only in the northern part of the eastern coast. According to previous studies, the two species can be distinguished based on morphology, F. radicans having narrower thalli and a bushier appearance. However, marine mapping in the eastern Bothnian Sea has revealed that high morphological variation in Fucus, partly caused by gradients in salinity and exposure, makes differentiation between the two species difficult. We studied morphological and genetic variation to find out whether the two Fucus species can be differentiated in the south-eastern Bothnian Sea, and if F. radicans occurs in the area. The study was carried out in six subareas including 350 km of coast, with a salinity gradient of 3.5–6.5 PSU, and varying wave exposure. We found a gradual change towards smaller and narrower thalli and a higher number of holdfasts in Fucus populations when moving northwards to lower salinities. Distinct Fucus morphs were often found within the study sites but the morphs were genetically differentiated only at one study site in the Skaftung subarea, suggesting the occurrence of both species. However, in the Vasa subarea the sample size for analysing genetic differentiation was low due to high clonality. In the Luvia subarea south of Skaftung, Fucus morphology corresponded to that of F. radicans in earlier studies but the population was genetically more similar to F. vesiculosus in the southern subareas. We conclude that by using only morphological characteristics it is not possible to differentiate between the two species in central and northern parts of the eastern Bothnian Sea. Based on genetic analyses, the southernmost known occurrence of F. radicans in the eastern Bothnian Sea is in Skaftung.
|Journal||European Journal of Phycology|
|Publication status||Published - 2018|
|MoE publication type||A1 Journal article-refereed|