Marine Seaweed Invasions : the Ecology of Introduced Fucus evanescens

Abstract: Biological invasions are an important issue of global change and an increased understanding of invasion processes is of crucial importance for both conservation managers and international trade. In this thesis, I have studied the invasion of the brown seaweed Fucus evanescens, to investigate the fate and effect of a perennial, habitat-forming seaweed introduced to a coastal ecosystem. A long-term study of the spread of F. evanescens in Öresund (southern Sweden) showed that the species was able to expand its range quickly during the first 20 years after the introduction, but that the expansion has been slow during the subsequent 30 years. Both in Öresund and in Skagerrak, the species is largely restricted to sites where native fucoids are scarce. Laboratory experiments showed that the restricted spread of F. evanescens cannot be explained by the investigated abiotic factors (wave exposure and salinity), although salinity restricts the species from spreading into the Baltic Sea. Neither did I find evidence for that herbivores or epibiota provide biotic resistance to the invader. On the contrary, F. evanescens was less consumed by native herbivores, both compared to the native fucoids and to F. evanescens populations in its native range, and little overgrown by epiphytes. Instead, the restricted spread may be due to competition from native seaweeds, probably by pre-occupation of space, and the establishment has probably been facilitated by disturbance. The studies provided little support for a general enemy release in introduced seaweeds. The low herbivore consumption of F. evanescens in Sweden could not be explained by release from specialist herbivores. Instead, high levels of chemical anti-herbivore defence metabolites (phlorotannins) could explain the pattern of herbivore preference for different fucoids. Likewise, the low epibiotic colonisation of F. evanescens plants could be explained by high resistance to epibiotic survival. This shows that colonisation of invading seaweeds by native herbivores and epibionts depends on properties of the invading species. The large differences between fucoid species in their quality as food and habitat for epibionts and herbivores imply that invasions of such habitat-forming species may have a considerable effect on a number of other species in shallow coastal areas. However, since F. evanescens did not exclude other fucoids in its new range, its effect on the recipient biota is probably small.