Responses to nutrient enrichment, wave action and disturbance in rocky shore communities

Patrik Kraufvelin

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    47 Citations (Scopus)


    A high degree of resistance against nutrient enrichment has previously been demonstrated for macroalgal-dominated rocky shore communities in the presence of moderate to large amounts of macroinvertebrate grazers. To experimentally examine, under controlled conditions, the possible roles for this resistance of two other factors, i.e. disturbance (presence/absence of the macroalgal canopy itself) and wave action, the canopy algae and associated algal and animal assemblages were removed by scraping from approximately one third of the area of eight littoral mesocosms, subjected to two different wave action regimes. After this, excessive nutrients were added to four mesocosms with the factor nutrients fully crossed with the factor wave action with two replicate mesocosm basins of each nutrient/wave treatment combination. Disturbance was added to the design as a within-basin factor thus making up a split-plot experiment. The abundance of grazers was allowed to vary freely and under the influence of the treatments. After I I summer weeks, there were significant differences in community structure between nutrient enrichment levels for both algal and animal assemblages when examined by multivariate statistical techniques. Univariate analyses confirmed a significantly stimulated colonisation by green algae, mainly Ulva lactuca, in both disturbed (scraped) and undisturbed areas of nutrient-enriched mesocosms. In un-enriched mesocosms, the green algae were absent from undisturbed areas and rare in disturbed areas, where mainly brown Ectocarpus spp. and red algae had settled. Among the macrofauna, the total abundance of grazers was stimulated in nutrient-enriched mesocosms with individuals of the amphipod genus Gammarus and the isopod genus Jaera being especially numerous. With regard to wave action, no significant differences occurred in community structure, although there were indications of significant nutrient x wave effects for both the amount of exported red algae and the amount of accumulated brown algae. The study shows that eutrophication-related community shifts on rocky shores may occur very rapidly, regardless of the level of wave-energetic stress and the abundance of grazers, if the nutrient concentrations are high and the colonisation and growth of opportunistic algae are facilitated by disturbance such as (naturally or anthropogenically driven) canopy gap forming processes. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All fights reserved.
    Original languageUndefined/Unknown
    Pages (from-to)262–274
    Number of pages13
    JournalAquatic Botany
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2007
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • algal colonisation
    • canopy gap formation
    • mesocosm
    • nutrient enrichment
    • rocky intertidal
    • marine biodiversity

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