Open Access

Interactions between macro-algal mats and invertebrates in the Ythan estuary, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

  • D. Raffaelli
Helgoland Marine Research54:00540071.10152


Blooms of opportunistic green macro-algae are a common feature of coastal areas and their effects on mudflat invertebrates can be dramatic. On the Ythan estuary, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, we have carried out a number of manipulative field experiments designed to evaluate the effects on invertebrates of different species of macro-algae with contrasting ecologies, and the effects of invertebrates on the development of the blooms. Macro-algal mats were found to have dramatic nega- tive effects on the density of the amphipod Corophium volutator, with higher algal biomasses having greater impact. The mechanism for this interaction seems to be interference by the algal filaments with the feeding behaviour of the amphipod. In contrast, the polychaete Capitella spp. increases in abundance under macro-algal mats due to enrichment of the sediment with organic material. These two interactions are seen at all scales, in areas of less than 1 m2 to the scale of the entire estuary, irrespective of the species composition of the macro- algal mats. Bioturbation by Corophium and grazing by the snail Hydrobia ulvae had little effect on macro-algal biomass, but there were less algae when the polychaete Nereis diversicolor was present. The most significant interaction in this system is the pronounced negative impact of algal mats on the abundance of Corophium, probably the most important invertebrate species in the diets of the estuary’s shorebirds, fish and epibenthic crustaceans.

Key words CorophiumEnteromorphaEutrophicationYthan estuaryMacro-algae