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Drastic decadal decline of the seagrass Cymodocea nodosa at Gran Canaria (eastern Atlantic): Interactions with the green algae Caulerpa prolifera

Tuya, Fernando, Hernandez-Zerpa, Harue, Espino, Fernando, Haroun, Ricardo
Aquatic botany 2013 v.105 pp. 1-6
Caulerpa, biomass, leaves, meadows, seagrasses, shoots, summer, winter, Canary Islands
The shoot density, leaf length and biomass of the seagrass Cymodocea nodosa (Ucria) Ascherson were found to severely decline in the last 17 years in the oceanic island of Gran Canaria (central Eastern Atlantic). Five seagrass meadows were sampled in summer and winter of 1994–1995 and in winter and summer 2011. The decrease in C. nodosa correlated with a 3-fold increase in the biomass of the green rhizophytic algae Caulerpa prolifera (Forsskål) J.V. Lamoroux over the same time period, although this increase varied notably among meadows. We also documented a negative correlation between the biomass of C. nodosa and C. prolifera at the island-scale, sampling 16 meadows in 2011. Experimental evidence demonstrated that C. prolifera can cause significant negative impacts on C. nodosa: plots with total (100%) removals of C. prolifera had ca. 2.5 more shoots and 3.5 times more biomass of C. nodosa, after 8 months, compared to plots with 50% removals and untouched control plots. Interference by C. prolifera appears to partially explain the decay in the abundance of C. nodosa populations in Gran Canaria. This study, however, did not identify potential underlying processes and/or environmental alterations that may have facilitated the disappearance of C. nodosa.