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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Coral-macroalgal interactions: Herbivory and substrate type influence growth of the macroalgae Eucheuma denticulatum (N.L. Burman) Collins & Hervey, 1917 on a tropical coral reef

Eggertsen, M.; Larsson, J.; Porseryd, T.; Akerlund, C.; Chacin, D. H.; Berkstrom, C.; Jiddawi, N.; Kautsky, N.; Halling, C.


Introduced macroalgae becoming invasive may alter ecological functions and habitats in recipient ecosystems. In the Western Indian Ocean (WIO), non-native strains of the native macroalgae Eucheuma denticulatum were introduced for farming practices and consequently spread into the surrounding seascape. We investigated potential effects of non-native and native strains of this macroalgae on a branching coral. We conducted a four-factor field experiment where we examined growth and holdfast development of introduced and native E. denticulatum on live and dead branches of Acropora sp. in the presence and absence of herbivores in Unguja Island, Zanzibar. Moreover, we estimated coral and macroalgae condition by visual examinations, gene expression analyses, and photosynthetic measurements. Macroalgae did not attach to any live coral and coral condition was not impacted by the presence of E. denticulatum, regardless of geographical origin. Instead, necrotic tissue on the macroalgae in areas of direct contact with corals indicated damage inflicted by the coral. The biomass of E. denticulatum did not differ between the replicates attached to live or dead corals in the experiment, yet biomass was strongly influenced by herbivory and replicates without protection from herbivores had a significantly lower biomass. In the absence of herbivory, introduced E. denticulatum had significantly higher growth rates than native algae based on wet weight measurements. These results contribute to an increased understanding of environmental effects by the farming of a non-native strain of algae on corals and stresses the importance to maintain viable populations of macroalgal feeding fishes in such areas.


Introduced species; Coral-macroalgal interactions; Herbivory; Eucheuma denticulatum; Acropora; Western Indian Ocean

Published in

Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
2021, Volume: 542-543, article number: 151606

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG14 Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

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