Fucus vesiculosus populations on artificial structures have potentially reduced fecundity and are dislodged at greater rates than on natural shores

Veronica Farrugia Drakard*, Paul Brooks, Tasman P. Crowe, Hannah S. Earp, Bryan Thompson, Nathan Bourke, Ruby George, Chloe Piper, Pippa J. Moore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Artificial structures are widespread features of coastal marine environments. These structures, however, are poor surrogates of natural rocky shores, meaning they generally support depauperate assemblages with reduced population sizes. Little is known about sub-lethal effects of such structures, for example, in terms of demographic properties and reproductive potential that may affect the dynamics and long-term viability of populations. Such understanding is particularly important for ecosystem engineer species, such as the intertidal seaweed Fucus vesiculosus. In this study, F. vesiculosus was sampled on eight artificial structures and eight natural shores along the east coast of Ireland and the west coast of Wales. Algal percentage cover, biomass, density of individuals, and growth rate did not differ between artificial and natural shores. Growth and reproductive cycles were consistent with previous studies for this species. While there was considerable variation from site to site, on average, populations on natural shores produced a higher number of mature receptacles during the peak reproductive period in April, and lower rates of dislodgement than on artificial structures. As F. vesiculosus reach peak reproductive output after 24 months, this suggests that individuals may be removed from populations on artificial structures before reaching their full reproductive potential. In this case, this did not influence density, percentage cover, or biomass, which suggests that F. vesiculosus populations on artificial structures may function similarly to those on natural shores if supported by suitable source populations, but potentially may not persist otherwise.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105324
Number of pages11
JournalMarine Environmental Research
Early online date31 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2021


  • Coastal management
  • Ecosystem engineer
  • Fucoids
  • Ocean sprawl
  • Population structure
  • Urbanisation


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    Ironside, J.


    01 Mar 201730 Sept 2022

    Project: Externally funded research

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