Effects of temperature, size, and food on the growth of Membranipora membranacea in laboratory and field studies.
In the rocky subtidal ecosystem of the western North Atlantic outbreaks of the introduced epiphytic bryozoan Membranipora membranacea cause defoliation of kelp beds and facilitate the introduction of other non-native benthic species. We quantified size- and temperature-dependent growth rates of M. membranacea colonies in the field and the laboratory for durations of 8-23 days. Also, we examined the interaction between food abundance and temperature on growth rates of newly settled colonies in the laboratory. Growth rates were positively related to temperature and increased exponentially with size of colonies over the ranges examined (5.7-16.2°C and 0.5-192 mm, respectively), and were significantly higher in the field than in the laboratory. There was an interactive effect between food and temperature on the size and growth rates of colonies, with the most pronounced effects of food limitation on colonies grown at the warmest temperatures, and no effect of food on colonies grown at the coldest temperatures. Quantifying the growth rates of introduced species is essential to understanding their population dynamics, particularly when outbreaks can have severe impacts on the native community.