Open Access

Temperature responses of tropical to warm temperateCladophora species in relation to their distribution in the North Atlantic Ocean

  • M. L. Cambridge1,
  • A. M. Breeman1,
  • S. Kraak1 and
  • C. van den Hoek1
Helgoländer Meeresuntersuchungen41:BF02366197


The relationship between distribution boundaries and temperature responses of some North AtlanticCladophora species (Chlorophyta) was experimentally examined under various regimes of temperature, light and daylength. Experimentally determined critical temperature intervals, in which survival, growth or reproduction was limited, were compared with annual temperature regimes (monthly means and extremes) at sites inside and outside distribution boundaries. The species tested belonged to two phytogeographic groups: (1) the tropical West Atlantic group (C. submarina: isolate from Curaçao) and (2) the amphiatlantic tropical to warm temperate group (C. prolifera: isolate from Corsica;C. coelothrix: isolates from Brittany and Curaçao; andC. laetevirens: isolates from deep and shallow water in Corsica and from Brittany). In accordance with distribution from tropical to warm temperate regions, each of the species grew well between 20–30°C and reproduction and growth were limited at and below 15°C. The upper survival limit in long days was <35°C in all species but high or maximum growth rates occurred at 30°C.C. prolifera, restricted to the tropical margins, had the most limited survival at 35°C. Experimental evidence suggests thatC. submarina is restricted to the Caribbean and excluded from the more northerly American mainland and Gulf of Mexico coasts by sporadic low winter temperatures in the nearshore waters, when cold northerly weather penetrates far south every few years. Experimental evidence suggests thatC. prolifera, C. coelothrix andC. laetevirens are restricted to their northern European boundaries by summer temperatures too low for sufficient growth and/or reproduction. Their progressively more northerly located boundaries were accounted for by differences in growth rates over the critical 10–15°C interval.C. prolifera andC. coelothrix are excluded or restricted in distribution on North Sea coasts by lethal winter temperatures, again differences in cold tolerance accounting for differences in their distribution patterns. On the American coast, species were probably restricted by lethal winter temperatures in the nearshore and, in some cases, by the absence of suitable hard substrates in the more equable offshore waters. Isolates from two points along the European coast (Brittany, Corsica) ofC. laetevirens showed no marked differences in their temperature tolerance but the Caribbean and European isolates ofC. coelothrix differed markedly in their tolerance to low temperatures, the lethal limit of the Caribbean isolate lying more than 5°C higher (at ca 5°C).