Experimental removal of the invasive Caulerpa racemosa triggers partial assemblage recovery.
The invasive species Caulerpa racemosa var. cylindracea represents a serious threat to the diversity of benthic assemblages in the Mediterranean Sea. In the present study, a removal experiment was carried out to test whether, after 18 months of C. racemosa var. cylindracea exclusion, the macrophyte assemblage resembled a non-invaded assemblage. The results show that in the assemblage invaded by C. racemosa var. cylindracea the number of species, macrophyte cover, Shannon diversity and Pielou's evenness were lower than in the non-invaded assemblage. Erect perennial species were particularly affected and other introduced species were significantly reduced or completely excluded. After 18 months of removal/exclusion of C. racemosa var. cylindracea, only partial recovery of the macrophyte assemblage could be observed. Species numbers, total cover and erect perennial species cover were still significantly lower than in the non-invaded plots. However Shannon diversity and Pielou's evenness had reached comparable levels. In contrast to native macrophytes, the total cover of other introduced species reached a level comparable to the non-invaded plots. In summary, the present study revealed that after 18 months of C. racemosa var. cylindracea exclusion: (i) only partial recovery of the macrophyte assemblage occurred; and (ii) the development of other invasive species was favoured by the absence of C. racemosa var. cylindracea (Sisyphus effect).