Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Habitat heterogeneity promotes the coexistence of exotic seaweeds.

Abstract

Despite the progressive accumulation of exotic species in natural communities, little effort has been devoted to elucidating the mechanisms underpinning the coexistence of invaders in environmentally and biologically heterogeneous systems. The exotic seaweeds, Asparagopsis taxiformis and Caulerpa racemosa, exhibit a segregated distribution on Mediterranean rocky reefs. A. taxiformis dominates assemblages in topographically complex habitats, but is virtually absent on homogenous platforms. In contrast, C. racemosa achieves extensive cover in both types of habitat. We assessed whether differences in their distribution were generated by biotic interactions (between invaders and/or between invaders and natives) or by environmental constraints. Three models were proposed to explain seaweed distribution patterns: (1) invaders inhibit one another; (2) native assemblages, differing between complex and simple habitats, prevent the establishment/spread of one invader, but not that of the other; and (3) environmental conditions regulate the establishment/persistence of the seaweeds in different habitats. We removed the dominant invader and resident assemblages in each type of habitat. Moreover, A. taxiformis thalli were transplanted into the habitat dominated by C. racemosa to establish whether its failure to colonize the simple habitat was due to the lack of propagules or post-recruitment mortality. C. racemosa spread in the complex habitat was not influenced by the removal of resident assemblages, but it was slightly enhanced by A. taxiformis removal. Neither C. racemosa removal nor that of resident assemblages promoted A. taxiformis colonization and survival in simple habitats. Our results suggest that heterogeneity in environmental conditions can promote invader coexistence by mitigating the effects of negative biotic interactions. Therefore, the accumulation of introduced species in native communities does not necessarily imply established invaders fostering further invasion.