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Research article1999Peer reviewed

Distribution of green algal mats throughout shallow soft bottoms of the Swedish Skagerrak archipelago in relation to nutrient sources and wave exposure

Pihl, Leif; Svenson, Anders; Moksnes, Per-Olav; Wennhage, Håkan


Distribution and biomass of green algal mats were studied in marine shallow (0-1 m) soft-bottom areas on the Swedish west coast from 1994 to 1996, by combining aerial photography surveys with ground truth sampling. Filamentous green algae, dominated by species of the genera Cladophora and Enteromorpha, were generally present throughout the study area during July and August, and largely absent in late April and early May. These algae occurred at 60 to 90% of the locations investigated during the summer, and were estimated to cover between 30 and 50% of the total area of shallow soft bottoms of the Swedish Skagerrak archipelago. The distributional patterns were similar during the three years of the investigation and appeared unrelated to annual local nutrient inputs from point sources and river discharge. We postulate that the apparent lack of such a relationship is due to an altered state of nutrient dynamics throughout the archipelago. Mechanisms are likely to involve long-term, diffuse elevations in nutrient levels in coastal waters of the Skagerrak and the Kattegat over several decades leading to current eutrophic conditions, exceeding nutrient requirements for abundant filamentous algal growth. Patterns of algal abundance in our study were largely related to physical factors such as exposure to wind, waves and water exchange under conditions where nutrient loads among embayments seemed to be unlimited. Further, our results show that sediments covered by algal mats had higher carbon and nitrogen contents than unvegetated sediments. We hypothesise that sustained high nutrient loads, manifested in extensive biomass of filamentous algae during summer months, are re-mineralised via decay and sedimentation in the benthic realm. Hence, accumulated carbon and nutrients in the sediment could, in turn, constitute the basic pool for future algal mat production overlying soft bottoms in areas where tidal exchange is limited. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.


filamentous macroalgae; Cladophora; Enteromorpha; eutrophication; vegetation cover; biomass

Published in

Journal of Sea Research
1999, Volume: 41, number: 4, pages: 281-294

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