Fragment quality and sediment organic loading regulate the survival of an invasive, clonal seaweed.
Although propagule pressure is recognized as an important determinant of invasion dynamics, the role of propagule quality (i.e. the physical condition of a propagule) has received little attention. In particular, how the performance of vegetative propagules differing in quality varies across heterogeneous landscapes is yet to be explored. Caulerpa cylindracea is a clonal, invasive seaweed, widely distributed in the Mediterranean. By means of a laboratory experiment, we investigated how variation in the quality of seaweed fragments (intact vs. frond-removal vs. rhizoid-removal) influenced their survival on control versus sediments enriched with detritus from the native seagrass, Posidonia oceanica. The survival of seaweed fragments was low on non-enriched sediments, irrespective of their characteristics. On enriched sediments, survival was high in control and rhizoid-removal fragments, but low in frond-removal fragments. Our study shows that both fragment quality and sediment characteristics influence the survival of C. cylindracea propagules and, hence, long-term spreading dynamics of this seaweed. More generally, it brings novel evidence showing that the effects of propagule quality on invasion success are context-dependent.