When the tiny help the mighty: facilitation between two introduced species, a solitary ascidian and a macroalga in northern Patagonia, Argentina
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Facilitation is recognized as one of the mechanisms by which nonnative species are integrated into new assemblages. The solitary ascidian Styela clava and the macroalga Undaria pinnatifida were introduced to San Antonio Bay, Argentina, with a couple of years of difference. We studied the occurrence pattern of both species in the area and tested the hypothesis that S. clava facilitates U. pinnatifida through a manipulative experiment. Our results clearly suggest a facilitation process between these species. The probability of finding U. pinnatifida is 30% higher in sites where S. clava is present and higher recruitment of U. pinnatifida occurred where S. clava is present than where it had been experimentally removed. Increased habitat complexity by the stalked ascidian S. clava can facilitate the establishment of U. pinnatifida by providing refugee from grazers, increasing surface for settlement, or providing greater access to light.
PJP, MG and JFS were supported by a postdoctoral scholarship granted by CONICET and PB was supported by a doctoral scolarship granted by CONICET, Argentina. This project was partially supported by the Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica (ANPCyT, Grant PICT CONAE-CONICET No. 04/2010 to MN). Matías Mancuso provided useful help in the field. Two anonymous reviewers helped to improve the manuscript.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
We declare that we have no conflict of interest. All the authors consented and agreed to carry out this research. All animals have been sampled and treated according to the national legislation. All permission to work in our study area were obtained prior the start of the experiments.
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