Trophic interactions in Zostera marina beds along the Swedish coast

Therese Jephson, Per Nyström, Per-Olav Moksnes, Susanne P. Baden

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    Abstract

    We compared eelgrass Zostera marina communities in 3 regions in Sweden believed to be affected by eutrophication and overfishing, to determine whether bottom-up or top-down processes control the biomass of epiphytic macroalgae and grazers. Nitrogen and carbon isotope signatures were analyzed to explore the food webs and to identify the grazing species feeding on filamentous algae and/or eelgrass. Mixing model (IsoSource version 1.3.1) analysis of the isotope signatures indicated that the amphipods Gammarus locusta and Microdeutopus gryllotalpa fed primarily on filamentous algae and that only 2 small gastropod species consumed eelgrass. Moreover, the grass shrimp Palaemon elegans and F adspersus were ca. 1 trophic level above amphipods and algae, but according to the mixing model played different trophic roles in the different areas. The highest biomass of filamentous algae was found in the west coast beds housing grazers with the lowest biomass and mean size (predominantly G. locusta and M. gryllotalpa, 0.5 to 3 mm). In contrast, the Baltic Sea beds had low algal biomass, but the grazers (mostly G. locusta and Idotea baltica) had higher biomass and were significantly larger (mean size ca. 10 mm). An overall negative correlation was found between grazer biomass and biomass of filamentous algae. The significantly smaller grazers and absence of isopod grazers on the west coast may be due to substantial consumption by small predatory fish. This supports the suggestions that, in Swedish eelgrass beds, grazers are top-down controlled, and overexploitation. of large predators and eutrophication play an important role in the recent increases in algal biomass.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)63-76
    JournalMarine Ecology - Progress Series
    Volume369
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2008

    Subject classification (UKÄ)

    • Ecology

    Keywords

    • interactions
    • Trophic
    • Mixing model
    • Stable isotopes
    • Zostera
    • Seagrass
    • Eelgrass

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