Marine Biology

, Volume 156, Issue 6, pp 1223–1231 | Cite as

Light, sediment, temperature, and the early life-history of the habitat-forming alga Cystoseira barbata

  • Andrew D. IrvingEmail author
  • David Balata
  • Francesco Colosio
  • Guillaume A. Ferrando
  • Laura Airoldi
Original Paper


Recruitment is essential for the maintenance of populations, but far more is typically known about the more easily-observed adult stages than their smaller, often microscopic early life-history counterparts. This discrepancy can be particularly problematic for populations of foundation species that create biogenic habitat for a multitude of other taxa, but are themselves prime candidates for exploitation, fragmentation, and loss, and therefore become the focus of restoration efforts partly or fully dependent on recruitment. The purpose of this study was to improve ecological understanding for early life-history stages of the habitat-forming marine alga Cystoseira barbata (Stackhouse) C. Agardh (Fucales: Sargassaceae), member of a genus that has experienced considerable fragmentation and population decline on European coasts. Using experimental manipulations of water temperature, light intensity, and sediment accumulation, we observed that sediment virtually precluded recruitment of C. barbata, and greatly impacted the survival of recently settled germlings (up to ~83% mortality). Stronger intensities of light facilitated the growth of germlings, including the capacity for ~50% of them to outgrow detrimental sediment and survive. Temperature (10 vs. 16°C) had no effect on early recruitment, survival, or growth. This information helps to identify likely causes and locations of recruitment failure, and by extension, the conditions needed (either naturally or through human intervention) to facilitate recruitment and possible habitat restoration. Ultimately, this knowledge can increase our capacity to predict population persistence and the likely success of restoration efforts.


Algal Turf Foundation Species Early Recruitment Recruitment Failure Ecological Understanding 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank A. Pasteris and R. Pistocchi for access to laboratory equipment, M. Abbiati, S. Bacchi, G. Fontana, S. Perkol-Finkel, and M. Ponti for advice and laboratory assistance, and B. Oiadé, P. Once, E. Pallazzo, and O. Piccione for encouragement and field support. Suggestions from three anonymous reviewers improved the manuscript. This work was supported by an Early-stage Research Fellowship awarded to A.D.I. from the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Bologna, the Strategic Project ADRIABIO awarded to L.A., and an Assegno di Ricerca awarded to D.B. The experiments described herein comply with current Italian law.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew D. Irving
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • David Balata
    • 1
    • 3
  • Francesco Colosio
    • 1
  • Guillaume A. Ferrando
    • 1
    • 4
  • Laura Airoldi
    • 1
  1. 1.Centro Interdipartimentale di Ricerca per le Scienze Ambientali & Dipartimento di Biologia Evoluzionistica SperimentaleUniversità di BolognaRavennaItaly
  2. 2.South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences)Henley BeachAustralia
  3. 3.School of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity College Dublin BelfieldDublin 4Ireland
  4. 4.École Nationale Supérieure Agronomique de ToulouseAuzeville-TolosaneFrance

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