Impacts of detritus from the invasive alga Caulerpa taxifolia on a soft sediment community

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Journal Article
Marine Ecology Progress Series, 2010, 420 pp. 73 - 81
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Invasive primary producers can dramatically reorganize food webs through detrital subsidies. This study assessed (1) contributions of the invasive alga Caulerpa taxifolia to detrital resources of temperate Australian estuaries, and (2) effects of these contributions on sedimentdwelling invertebrates. In an invaded estuary, sampling of an intertidal shore indicated C. taxifolia fragments were consistently present in organic matter deposits and were particularly abundant following storms. Sampling of the alga across 6 invaded estuaries showed that the ratio of organic carbon to nitrogen (C:N) in fresh tissue varied between 7 and 16. To determine how C. taxifolia detritus influences benthic macrofaunal assemblages and whether this influence depends on the quantity and C:N ratio of C. taxifolia detritus, a manipulative field experiment was performed. On a sheltered intertidal mudflat, 0.25 m2 plots of sediment were experimentally enriched with either a high (90 g DW) or low (30 g) loading of high C:N (14) or low C:N (7) C. taxifolia detritus. Experimental enrichment negatively affected the total abundance and species richness of macroinvertebrates relative to controls, and these effects increased with detrital loading. For some macrofauna, reducing the C:N ratio tended to exacerbate negative effects on abundances, whereas it moderated these effects for other species. Given that organic matter derived from invasive species can be transported beyond the distribution of live invaders, greater consideration should be given to the potential broad-scale effects of invasive primary producers on detrital pathways. © Inter-Research 2010.
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