Factors limiting the establishment of canopy-forming algae on artificial structures
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Macroalgal canopies are important ecosystem engineers, contributing to coastal productivity and supporting a rich assemblage of associated flora and fauna. However, they are often absent from infrastructures such as coastal defences and there has been a worldwide decline in their distribution in urbanised coastal areas. The macroalga Fucus spiralis is the only high-shore canopy forming species present in the Azores. It is widely distributed in the archipelago but is never found on coastal infrastructures. Here we evaluate factors that may potentially limit its establishment on artificial structures. A number of observational and manipulative experiments were used to test the hypotheses that: (i) limited-dispersal ability limits the colonisation of new plants onto artificial structures, (ii) vertical substratum slope negatively influences the survivorship of recruits, and (iii) vertical substratum slope also negatively influences the survivorship and fitness of adults. Results showed that the limited dispersal from adult plants may be a more important factor than slope in limiting the species ability to colonise coastal infrastructures, since the vertical substratum slope does not affect its fitness or survivorship.
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