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Eutrophication of shallow coastal waters often leads to blooms of macroalgae. Grazing by crustaceans, such as amphipods and isopods, can reduce macroalgal biomass accumulation. At the same time, growth of the macroalgae can be stimulated by epiphyte removal. The role of grazing by isopods and amphipods on Ulva spp. biomass development was investigated in the Veerse Meer, a brackish lagoon situated in the southwest Netherlands. Exclusion of grazing in the field did not stimulate Ulva spp. growth. In fact, growth rates were higher in exclosures that allowed grazers to enter. Edibility tests identified the amphipod Gammarus locusta, and the isopods Idotea chelipes and Sphaeroma hookeri as potential grazers on Ulva spp. However, when epiphytic diatoms were present on the Ulva spp. thalli, Gammarus and Sphaeroma grazed on ephiphytes and not on Ulva tissue. Only Idotea continued to graze on Ulva spp. A laboratory growth experiment revealed a positive effect of Gammarus presence on Ulva spp. growth, probably caused by preferential removal of epiphytic diatoms from the Ulva spp. thalli. The growth stimulation by epiphyte removing grazers such as Gammarus may explain the higher growth rates in the presence of grazers observed in the field. When determining the potential role of invertebrate grazers in controlling macroalgal biomass accumulation, it is important to include an assessment of the epiphyte abundance on the macroalgae, as preferential removal of epiphytes may stimulate growth and thus have the opposite effect. [KEYWORDS: epiphytes, grazing, growth, Ulva spp.]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-433
JournalAquatic Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002

ID: 233710