The indirect role of nutrients in enhancing the invasion of Caulerpa racemosa var cylindracea.
The effects of nutrients dynamics on biological invasions in marine habitats have not been fully investigated. The present study aimed to evaluate the role of nutrient pollution in determining the successful invasion of the introduced seaweed Caulerpa racemosa var. cylindracea in a Mediterranean subtidal rocky habitat. To this end, a manipulative field experiment was carried out by supplying the water column with nutrients for a one-year period. Afterwards C. racemosa was transplanted in both nutrient-enriched and control macroalgal assemblages. Results showed that the penetration and biomass of C. racemosa in the assemblages previously treated with nutrients were higher than in control ones, indicating that communities stressed by nutrient pollution are more vulnerable to invasion. The nutrient enrichment changed the structure of natural macroalgal assemblages, mainly by encouraging the growth of turf species. No significant effects were detected for the erect and prostrate layers and for the number of species, suggesting that the susceptibility of the community to invasion may depend more on the morpho-functional identity of macroalgae rather than on the diversity of assemblages. Changes in the availability of seawater nutrients may foster the spread of C. racemosa, both by enhancing its growth and eroding the natural resistance of macroalgal assemblages. Thus, the maintenance of good water quality may play an important role in containing both C. racemosa and other introduced seaweeds.