Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Grazing of the invasive alga Codium fragile ssp. tomentosoides by the common periwinkle Littorina littorea: effects of thallus size, age and condition.

Abstract

We examined the potential of herbivory by the common periwinkle Littorina littorea to limit recruitment and vegetative re-growth of the invasive green alga Codium fragile ssp. tomentosoides in a series of manipulative field experiments in tidepools on a wave-exposed rocky shore in Nova Scotia, Canada. Snails were excluded or included from circular plots (14 to 20 cm diameter) with cages to compare growth and survival of C. fragile against procedural (partial cages) or natural (uncaged) control plots. Our results show that L. littorea may restrict growth and survival of C. fragile by grazing new recruits (<2 cm thallus length), fronds of adult thalli that are bleached and necrotic, and residual holdfasts (<2 mm thickness) of detached thalli (artificially severed to mimic wave dislodgement). Once recruits grow beyond a critical size (∼3 cm), or damaged tissues or holdfasts regenerate, grazing of C. fragile by L. littorea appears to be limited and ineffectual. Our experimental results corroborate correlative evidence from previous studies that herbivory by L. littorea limits the abundance of C. fragile in tidepools on the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, particularly pools in the high intertidal zone where these snails are abundant. Lower on the shore, littorinid grazing and physical stressors that render algae more vulnerable to grazers (e.g. UV radiation and freezing) are less intensive, and probably have less of a regulatory effect on populations of C. fragile.