Biomass dynamics of exotic Sargassum muticum and native Halidrys siliquosa in Limfjorden, Denmark - Implications of species replacements on turnover rates
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Natural Sciences
The expansion of Sargassum muticum in the Danish estuary Limfjorden between 1984 and 1997 was followed by a decrease in abundance of native perennial macroalgae such as Halidrys siliquosa. Although commonly associated with the expansion of exotic species, it is unknown whether such structural changes affect ecosystem properties such as the production and turnover of organic matter and associated nutrients. We hypothesized that S. muticum possesses ‘ephemeral’ traits relative to the species it has replaced, potentially leading to faster and more variable turnover of organic matter. The biomass dynamics of S. muticum and H. siliquosa was therefore compared in order to assess the potential effects of the expansion of Sargassum. The biomass of Sargassum was highly variable among seasons while that of Halidrys remained almost constant over the year. Sargassum grew faster than Halidrys and other perennial algae and the annual productivity was therefore high (P/B = 12 year−1) and exceeded that of Halidrys (P/B = 5 year−1) and most probably also that of other perennial algae in the system. The major grazer on macroalgae in Limfjorden, the sea urchin Psammechinus miliaris, preferred Sargassum to Halidrys, but estimated losses due to grazing were negligible for both species and most of the production may therefore enter the detritus pool. Detritus from Sargassum decomposed faster and more completely than detritus from Halidrys and other slow-growing perennial macrophytes. High productivity and fast decomposition suggest that the increasing dominance of S. muticum have increased turnover of organic matter and associated nutrients in Limfjorden and we suggest that the ecological effects of the invasion to some extent resemble those imposed by increasing dominance of ephemeral algae following eutrophication.