- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Distribution Table
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Air Temperature
- Water Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Impact Summary
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
International Common Names
- English: agar-agar
- Chinese: chilin-t'-sai
Local Common Names
- India: Indian carrageen
- Indonesia: agar-agar besar; agar-agar pulau
- Philippines: tambalang
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Kappaphycus alvarezii and Kappaphycus striatum have been introduced to numerous countries around the world for commercial aquaculture for the carrageenan industry (Zemke-White and Ohno, 1999; Zemke-White and Smith, 2006). Cultivation most often occurs in open culture where cuttings of the algae are secured onto rope lines which are strung above the benthos in shallow reef flat environments. Despite the widespread introduction of these species few reports have indicated that they have established natural populations in the areas surrounding farm plots. However, in the Hawaiian Islands where several carrageenophtyes were introduced in the 1970s evidence suggests that many species have since spread and become naturalized on the reefs in Kane’ohe Bay, Oahu (Smith et al., 2002; Conklin and Smith, 2005). These species all reproduce through vegetative propagation thus facilitating spread and dispersal. Despite the evidence that these species have established wild populations and may even be reproducing sexually (J Smith, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, UC Santa Barbara, personal communication, 2008), there are little data to indicate the ecological impacts that they may be having on the reef communities.
However, species of Kappaphycus can regularly be seen growing on or over reef building corals. Due to the extremely large size of these algae they seem to be able to outcompete or smother many native reef species. Because of the concern that has been generated in Hawai’i about the potential ecological impacts of these species various seaweed removal activities have taken place. Researchers initially conducted removal by hand but have since moved to removal with a large underwater vaccum/suction pump operated from a floating barge. While the “super sucker” (Pala, 2008) is mainly used on 2 other highly invasive algal species Graciliaria salicornia and Eucheuma denticulatum (also introduced for aquaculture) occasionally events also target Kappaphycus. While Kappaphycus spp. are clearly successful invaders on Hawaii’s reefs they are not among the most problematic marine invasive species. Little information exists on the invasion potential of these species for the rest of the world.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Rhodophyta
- Class: Rhodophyceae
- Order: Gigartinales
- Family: Solieriaceae
- Genus: Kappaphycus
DescriptionTop of page
The thallus of Kappaphycus alvarezii ranges from 24 to 48 cm. The branches are cartilaginous and pliable, ranging from 8 to 12 cm in length with unilateral to irregular branching type. Branch diameter ranges from a few mm at the branch tips to greater than 1 cm in older tissue. Generally the branches are smooth and the thallus can be short with many branches to much larger with long smooth branches. The diameter of the different types of vegetative cells are as follows: 2-4 µm outer cortex, 30-240 µm inner cortex and, 25-40 µm medulla. Thylles of the medulla are present but rhizoids are absent.
DistributionTop of page
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|China||Present||Introduced||1985||Wu et al., 1988|
|India||Localised||Introduced||1989||Mairh et al., 1995||Saurashtra region|
|Japan||Localised||Native||1983||Mairh et al., 1986|
|Maldives||Localised||Introduced||1986||de Reviers, 1989|
|Philippines||Localised||Native||1971||Doty and Alvarez, 1975|
|Vietnam||Localised||Introduced||1993||Ohno et al., 1996|
|Djibouti||Present||Introduced||1973||Braud et al., 1974|
|Kenya||Present||Introduced||1996||Ask et al., undated|
|Madagascar||Present||Introduced||1998||Ask et al., undated|
|Tanzania||Present||Introduced||1989||Lirasan and Twide, 1993|
|Mexico||Present||Introduced||1980s||Muñoz et al., 2004|
|USA||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-California||Absent, formerly present||Introduced||Doty and Norris, 1985|
|-Florida||Introduced, establishment uncertain||Introduced||Dawes, 1989|
|-Hawaii||Present||Introduced||1970||Invasive||Doty, 1985a; Doty, 1985b; Doty and Norris, 1985; Eldredge, 1994||Multiple introductions to Kane’ohe Bay and Honolulu Harbor, Oahu|
Central America and Caribbean
|Cuba||Present||Introduced||1991||Serpa-Madrigal et al., 1997|
|Brazil||Present||Introduced||1995||de Paula et al., 1999|
|Venezuela||Present||Introduced||1996||Rincones and Rubio, 1999|
|Cook Islands||Introduced, establishment uncertain||Introduced||1980s||Eldredge, 1994||Aitutaki|
|Fiji||Present||Introduced||1976||Prakash, 1990; Eldredge, 1994||Suva, Mana, Telau, Bau, Rakiraki|
|French Polynesia||Present||Introduced||1985||Doty and Norris, 1985|
|Guam||Localised||Introduced||1985||Doty and Norris, 1985|
|Johnston Island||Present||Russell, 1982|
|Kiribati||Present||Introduced||1977||Russell, 1982; Luxton and Luxton, 1999||Kiritimati, Fanning & Butaritari Atolls|
|Marshall Islands||Present||Introduced||1990||Eldredge, 1994||Majuro lagoon, Mili and Lildep|
|Micronesia, Federated states of||Present||Introduced||Doty and Norris, 1985||Pohnpei, Kosrae|
|Samoa||Present||Introduced||1975||Doty and Santos, 1978||Upolo|
|Solomon Islands||Localised||Introduced||1987||Eldredge, 1994||Vonavona, Munda, Ontong Java|
IntroductionsTop of page
|Introduced to||Introduced from||Year||Reason||Introduced by||Established in wild through||References||Notes|
|Natural reproduction||Continuous restocking|
|California||1985||Research (pathway cause)||Unknown||No||No||Doty (1985a)|
|China||1985||Aquaculture (pathway cause)||Unknown||No||No||Wu et al. (1988)|
|Djibouti||1973||Unknown||No||No||Braud et al. (1974)|
|Fiji||mid 1970s||Unknown||No||No||Prakash (1990)|
|Florida||1988||Research (pathway cause)||Unknown||No||No||Dawes (1989)|
|Hawaii||1971, 1985||Unknown||No||No||Doty (1985a); Doty (1985b)|
|India||1989||Unknown||No||No||Mairh et al. (1995)|
|Indonesia||1985||Aquaculture (pathway cause)||Unknown||Yes||Yes||Soerjodinoto (1969)|
|Japan||1983||Unknown||No||No||Mairh et al. (1986)|
|Kiribati||1977, 1981||Aquaculture (pathway cause)||Unknown||No||No||Russell (1982)|
|Malaysia||1978||Aquaculture (pathway cause)||Unknown||Yes||Yes||Doty (1980)|
|Philippines||1971||Aquaculture (pathway cause)||Unknown||Yes||Yes||Doty and Alvarez (1973)|
|Tanzania||1989||Aquaculture (pathway cause)||Unknown||Yes||Yes||Lirasan and Twide (1993)|
|Vietnam||1993||Unknown||No||No||Ohno et al. (1995); Ohno et al. (1996)|
Habitat ListTop of page
|Coral reefs||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Benthic zone||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
The life cycle of Kappaphycus spp. is triphasic and comprises the tetrasporophyte (2n), carposporophyte (2n) and gametophyte (n) phases. The vegetative and reproductive structures of tetrasporic and gametophytic populations and their occurrence in farming sites in the Philippines have been reported.
K. alvarezii produces zonate tetraspores and the tetrasporophytes have been found in K. alvarezii cultured species. Tetrasporophytes dominate natural beds near farms in Tawi-Tawi, Philippines whereas in Danajon Reef, Philippines, only K. striatum var. dichotomous (or ‘sakol’) and E. denticulatum from farms were found to have more tetrasporophytes. Male gametophytes and structures are rare to unknown in these genera.
Clone cultivation, however, is presently very useful for farming; further research, should therefore include the use of sporelings for culture as in other economically important seaweeds such as Porphyra and Laminaria. Sporeling cultivation could provide the possibility of other farming manipulations and increase genetic variation.
Light response curves have been plotted for the commercial eucheumatoids. Photosynthetic rates vary for tissue types in E. striatum var. tambalang with younger tissues having higher rates. In addition, there are UV-absorbing compounds in E. striatum that absorb at 333 nm, that increase in quantity with exposure to higher levels of UV. This photopigment is destroyed when exposed to twice the level of UV found in nature.
The different colour types of K. alvarezii have different photosynthetic responses related to the photosynthetic pigments characteristic of each type. Ecotypic differentiation and variation in photosynthetic efficiency have been shown for E. denticulatum colour types red, brown and green, which were not shown by K. alvarezii when nitrogen was limiting (Ask and Azanza, 2001).
Dawes (1989) studied the temperature responses with acclimation from 22 to 25°C of K. alvarezii and reported no acclimation of the species to 18ºC either through gradual or abrupt transfers. K. striatum (var. tambalang and elkhorn) and E. denticulatum have maximum photosynthetic rates at 30°C with inhibition at 35-40°C. An optimum photosynthetic rate was obtained between 30 and 35°C for E. denticulatum.
In tropical areas, Trono and Ohno (1989) reported that rapid growth and high biomass production by Kappaphycus occurs during months characterized by warmer temperature, i.e. 25-30°C.
Ask and Azanza (2001) suggested that single and interactive effects of salinity with other factors on the commercial cultivation of Kappaphycus should be studied because in shallow floating forms or off bottom farms exposed at low tide the crops can be exposed to rapid decreases in salinity during tropical downpours. Noticeable drops in temperature and light levels also happen and plants located in the intertidal zone can experience rapid changes in salinity from freshwater runoff.
ClimateTop of page
|A - Tropical/Megathermal climate||Preferred||Average temp. of coolest month > 18°C, > 1500mm precipitation annually|
|Am - Tropical monsoon climate||Tolerated||Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))|
|Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year||Tolerated||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year|
|Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer||Tolerated||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers|
|Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter||Tolerated||Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)|
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Mean annual temperature (ºC)||20||30|
Water TolerancesTop of page
|Parameter||Minimum Value||Maximum Value||Typical Value||Status||Life Stage||Notes|
|Illumination (Lux illuminance)||>10,000||Harmful||Adult|
|Illumination (Lux illuminance)||6000||Optimum||Adult|
|Salinity (part per thousand)||32||36||Optimum|
|Salinity (part per thousand)||<24||>45||Harmful||Adult|
|Water temperature (ºC temperature)||22||29||Optimum||20-30 tolerated|
|Water temperature (ºC temperature)||25||30||Optimum||Adult|
|Water temperature (ºC temperature)||35||40||Harmful||Adult|
Natural enemiesTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||Positive|
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Pioneering in disturbed areas
- Long lived
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Reproduces asexually
- Damaged ecosystem services
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Modification of natural benthic communities
- Modification of successional patterns
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Competition - shading
- Competition - smothering
- Competition - strangling
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult/costly to control
Gaps in Knowledge/Research NeedsTop of page
Species of Kappaphycus have been introduced to numerous countries around the world over the last 40 years yet very little is known about the potential ecological/environmental impacts that these species may be having on surrounding benthic communities. Additionally, very little information is known about the ecology of Kappaphycus spp. in their native range. Based on data and observations from exotic populations in the Hawaiian Islands it seems that these species do have the potential to become invasive. More detailed assessments need to be conducted around the world to determine if these species are regularly establishing wild populations and if so what are the impacts to these ecosystems? Is the benefit gained by farming outweighed by the cost of introducing non-native species?
ReferencesTop of page
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ContributorsTop of page
22/04/2008 Updated by:
Jennifer Smith, National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis, University of California, Santa Barbara,, 725 State St. Suite 300, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, USA
The Marine Science Institute, College of Science, University of the Philippines, Velasquez Street, Diliman, Quezon City 1101, Philippines
Distribution MapsTop of page
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