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Ambio. 2007 Apr;36(2-3):203-11.

Macroalgal communities face the challenge of changing biotic interactions: review with focus on the Baltic Sea.

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Section of Ecology, Department of Biology, University of Turku, Finland.


In diverse littoral communities, biotic interactions play an important role in community regulation. This article reviews how eutrophication modifies biotic interactions in littoral macroalgal communities. Eutrophication causes blooms of opportunistic algae, increases epibiotism, and affects regulation by grazers. Opportunistic algae and epibionts harm colonization and growth of perennial algae. Grazing regulates the density and species composition of macroalgal communities, especially at the early stage of algal colonization. Eutrophication supports higher grazer densities by increasing the availability and quality of algae to grazers. This may, on the one hand, enhance the capability of grazers to regulate and counteract the increase of harmful, bloom-forming macroalgae; on the other hand, it may increase grazing pressure on perennial species, with a poor tolerance of grazing. In highly eutrophic conditions, bloom-forming algae may also escape grazing control and accumulate. Increasing epibiotism and grazing threaten in particular the persistence of habitat-forming perennials such as the bladderwrack. An interesting property of biotic interactions is that they do not remain fixed but are able to evolve, as the traits of the interacting species adapt to each other and to abiotic conditions. The potential of plants and grazers to adapt is crucial to their chances to survive in changing environment.

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