Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Marine turf of an invasive alga expels lugworms from the lower shore.

Abstract

Bare sandy flats at and below low tide level of the Wadden Sea (eastern North Sea, European Atlantic) were observed in 2020 to have been invaded by an introduced grass-like alga, Vaucheria cf. velutina (Xanthophyceae). A dense algal turf accumulated and stabilized mud, where resident seniors of the lugworm Arenicola marina had reworked rippled sand. Algae and worms were incompatible. Initially, rising patches with algal turf alternated with bare pits where lugworms crowded. Their bioturbation inhibited young algae, while the felt of established algal rhizoids clogged feeding funnels of worm burrows. Eventually, a mosaic pattern of competitors gave way to a coherent algal turf without lugworms. Concomitantly, a rich small-sized benthic fauna took advantage of the novel algal turf. This exotic Vaucheria may have the potential for drastically altering the ecological web at the lower shore.