Fucus distichus and Fucus spiralis f. nana on extremely exposed upper shore rock

18-01-2005
Researched byFrances Perry & Jacqueline Hill Refereed byAdmin
EUNIS CodeA1.121 EUNIS NameFucus distichus and Fucus spiralis f. nana on extremely exposed upper eulittoral rock

Summary

UK and Ireland classification

EUNIS 2008A1.121Fucus distichus and Fucus spiralis f. nana on extremely exposed upper eulittoral rock
EUNIS 2006A1.121Fucus distichus and Fucus spiralis f. nana on extremely exposed upper eulittoral rock
JNCC 2004LR.HLR.FR.FdisFucus distichus and Fucus spiralis f. nana on extremely exposed upper shore rock
1997 BiotopeLR.ELR.FR.FdisFucus distichus subsp. anceps and Fucus spiralis f. nana on extremely exposed upper eulittoral rock

Description

Extremely exposed gently or steeply sloping upper shore bedrock may support a mixture of Fucus distichus and Fucus spiralis f. nana, the latter often at the top of the zone. This biotope is rare and restricted to the far north and west coasts. This mixed band is generally found between the Verrucaria maura and Porphyra zone (LR.Ver.Por) above, and the Mytilus edulis and barnacle zone below (ELR.MytB). Although it may occur above a red algal zone (MLR.Mas), as recorded on Barra or above a Porphyra and sparse barnacle zone (LR.Ver.Por) as on St Kilda. (Information taken from the Marine Biotope Classification for Britain and Ireland, Version 97.06: Connor et al., 1997a, b).

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

This biotope is rare and is only found on the coasts of the far north and west of Scotland including Shetland, Orkney, the Outer Hebrides and St. Kilda.

Depth range

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Additional information

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Listed By

Further information sources

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Habitat review

Ecology

Ecological and functional relationships

  • In general exposed conditions favour the growth of barnacles, limpets and mussels rather than fucoid algae. However, the ELR.Fdis biotope includes seaweeds that are able to tolerate the extreme conditions of wave exposed rocky shores, primarily the physical stresses caused by wave action. The strong holdfast and short tufted structure of Fucus distichus and Fucus spiralis f. nana allow these fucoids to survive on extremely exposed shores in the north and north-west. Other seaweeds able to tolerate the wave-wash are the red encrusting algae Hildenbrandia rubra and seasonally occurring Porphyra spp.
  • In Britain and Ireland, Fucus distichus has only been recorded attached to bedrock in the mid to upper eulittoral zone on exposed rocky shores in northern Scotland and Ireland. It is thought to be prevented from growing further south due to its poor tolerance of desiccation and inability to compete with plants growing further down the shore. However, on the east coast of North America, Fucus distichus is only found in rock pools and is incapable of growing on emergent rock surfaces in the mid to upper eulittoral. The isolated and dispersed occurrence of Fucus distichus together with a greater abundance on more northerly shores of the North Atlantic suggest that it may be a relic form surviving only in habitats which are unsuitable for the main fucoids found at these latitudes (Lewis, 1964). A critical factor in the distribution of Fucus distichus is probably day length. Short day lengths stimulate the onset of receptacle formation (Bird & McLachlan, 1976).
  • Grazing on rocky shores can exert significant controlling influences on the algal vegetation, particularly by patellid limpets and littorinid snails which are usually the most prominent grazers. There may also be effects caused by 'mesograzers' - amphipods such as Hyale prevostii and isopods, which are much smaller but can occur in high densities.
  • The surf-swept conditions under which both Fucus distichus and Fucus spiralis f. nana occur are not always conducive to the formation of well-defined zones. Scattered plants or thick ankle-deep carpets can often lie somewhat randomly placed (Lewis, 1964).
  • The presence of a fucoid canopy inhibits the settlement of barnacles by blocking larval recruitment mainly by 'sweeping' the rock of colonizers. However, the canopy offers protection against desiccation which promotes the clumping of adults and the recruitment of young in several species of mobile animals. The number of limpets increases with maturing fucoid clumps.

Seasonal and longer term change

Rocky shore communities are often highly variable in time, due to the combined influences of physical disturbance, competition, grazing, predation and variation in recruitment. However, the communities on wave exposed shores tend to be less variable than on moderately exposed shores and are therefore more stable. The wave exposed conditions in this biotope seems to favour the development of a relatively stable covering of wave tolerant fucoids plus a patchy covering of barnacles and limpets. However, seasonal changes are apparent on rocky shores with seasonal variation in growth and recruitment. For example, Fucus distichus plants lose fronds in the autumn after reproducing and are then removed from the rock by wave action during their third winter.

Habitat structure and complexity

The ELR.Fdis biotope provides a variety of habitats and refugia for other species. Macroalgae increases the structural complexity of the habitat providing a variety of resources that are not available on bare rock. Algal fronds provide space for attachment of encrusting or sessile epifauna and epiphytic algae and give shelter from wave action, desiccation and heat for invertebrates. Empty barnacle shells can shelter small littorinids such as Littorina neglecta and Littorina saxatilis. If present mussels can increase habitat complexity and species diversity because the gaps between interconnected mussels form numerous interstices for a variety of organisms. The barnacles may be covered by Porphyra sp. on the upper shore although few other species can attach to them.

Productivity

Rocky shore communities are highly productive and are an important source of food and nutrients for members of neighbouring terrestrial and marine ecosystems (Hill et al., 1998). Macroalgae exude considerable amounts of dissolved organic carbon which are taken up readily by bacteria and may even be taken up directly by some larger invertebrates. Only about 10% of the primary production is directly cropped by herbivores (Raffaelli & Hawkins, 1996). Dissolved organic carbon, algal fragments and microbial film organisms are continually removed by the sea. This may enter the food chain of local, subtidal ecosystems, or be exported further offshore. Rocky shores make a contribution to the food of many marine species through the production of planktonic larvae and propagules which contribute to pelagic food chains.

Recruitment processes

Many rocky shore species, plant and animal, possess a planktonic stage: gamete, spore or larvae which float in the plankton before settling and metamorphosing into adult form. This strategy allows species to rapidly colonize new areas that become available such as in the gaps often created by storms. For these organisms it has long been evident that recruitment from the pelagic phase is important in governing the density of populations on the shore (Little & Kitching, 1996). Both the demographic structure of populations and the composition of assemblages may be profoundly affected by variation in recruitment rates.
  • Receptacles of Fucus distichus are initiated in December, they become ripe in April and gametes are released from April to August. The species produces gametes of both sexes within each conceptacle. When released, ova can survive and disperse for several days. Antherozoids can only live for several hours. Self-fertilization is thought to be high in the species and once a zygote is formed it can only be dispersed over limited distances (Rice et al., 1985).
  • Fucus spiralis is also hermaphroditic. Receptacles are initiated during late January to February, gametes discharged during July and August, and the receptacles shed by November, although exact timing of reproduction depends on location and the form of the plant.
  • Among sessile organisms, patterns fixed at settlement, though potentially altered by post settlement mortality, obviously cannot be influenced by dispersal of juveniles or adults. Some of the species that may be found living in the biotope, such as amphipods, do not have pelagic larvae, but instead have direct development of larvae producing their offspring as 'miniature adults'.

Time for community to reach maturity

The time for the biotope to reach maturity should be relatively rapid because recruitment of key species is good. For example, Fucus distichus and Fucus spiralis have been observed to readily recruit to cleared areas (Ang, 1991) and have fast growth rates, so recovery rates are expected to be high. Fucus distichus has a lifespan of about 3 years. Colonization by other species found in the biotope, such as Littorina neglecta and Melarhaphe neritoides, is also likely to be quite rapid. Therefore, it seems likely that the biotope should reach maturity within a few years.

Additional information

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Preferences & Distribution

Recorded distribution in Britain and IrelandThis biotope is rare and is only found on the coasts of the far north and west of Scotland including Shetland, Orkney, the Outer Hebrides and St. Kilda.

Habitat preferences

Depth Range
Water clarity preferences
Limiting Nutrients Nitrogen (nitrates), Phosphorus (phosphates)
Salinity Full (30-40 psu)
Physiographic Open coast
Biological Zone Upper eulittoral, Upper littoral fringe
Substratum Bedrock
Tidal
Wave Extremely exposed
Other preferences

Additional Information

Species composition

Species found especially in this biotope

  • None

Rare or scarce species associated with this biotope

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Additional information

Sensitivity reviewHow is sensitivity assessed?

Explanation

The biotope is a fucoid dominated community characterized by Fucus distichus and Fucus spiralis f. nana. Although several other species are present in the biotope it is the sensitivity of the fucoids that are important in determining the sensitivity of the biotope.

Species indicative of sensitivity

Community ImportanceSpecies nameCommon Name
Key structuralFucus distichusA brown seaweed
Key structuralFucus spiralisSpiral wrack

Physical Pressures

 IntoleranceRecoverabilitySensitivitySpecies RichnessEvidence/Confidence
High High Moderate Major decline Moderate
All key and important species in the biotope are highly intolerant of substratum loss. The algae and barnacles are permanently attached to the substratum so populations would be lost. Epifaunal grazers like Patella vulgata and littorinid snails are epifaunal and most will be removed along with substratum loss. Those that do remain have an increased risk of desiccation and predation and so populations are unlikely to survive. Mobile species like the amphipod Hyale prevostii will be indirectly affected by the loss of fucoid plants as protection from desiccation is removed, as will sessile epiphytic flora and fauna. See additional information for recovery.
Low Very high Very Low No change Moderate
Smothering by 5 cm of sediment, although unlikely to occur in this biotope, is likely to completely cover the species in the biotope, preventing photosynthesis and respiration. The individual key species have high intolerance to smothering. Algae may rot under smothering material and sessile and slow moving fauna may suffocate. Barnacle feeding is likely to be affected and limpet locomotion and grazing will probably be impaired. Sediment will have an especially adverse effect on young germling algae and on the settlement of larvae and spat. Suspension feeders such as mussels may be killed by smothering. However, since the biotope occurs in extremely exposed locations wave action will mobilize sediment alleviating the effect of smothering and so intolerance has been assessed as low. As sediment is removed photosynthesis, locomotion and feeding will return to normal so recovery will be rapid.
Low Very high Very Low No change Moderate
Increased suspended sediment may reduce growth rate in barnacles due to the energetic costs of cleaning sediment particles from feeding apparatus although if the organic content is high suspension feeders will benefit. Patella vulgata and Mytilus edulis also have low intolerance to an increase in suspended sediment because they are found in turbid estuaries where suspended sediment levels are high. Intertidal algae (which continue to photosynthesize when the tide is out) are not sensitive to levels of suspended sediment. Therefore, at the level of the benchmark, the biotope is considered to have low intolerance. On return to normal conditions feeding rates will return to pre-impact levels almost immediately and growth within a short time. Recovery is therefore reported to be very high.
Low High Moderate Minor decline Moderate
A decrease in suspended sediment, especially organic particulates, could potentially reduce the food available to suspension feeders such as the barnacles and Mytilus edulis and hence growth rates. For a period of a month however, the effect is not likely to be significant. None of the other species in the biotope require a supply of suspended sediment particles for feeding or for activities such as tube building. Therefore, an intolerance of low has been recorded.
Intermediate High Low Major decline Moderate
The fucoid species Fucus distichus and the more widespread form of Fucus spiralis both have high intolerance to desiccation stress. Fucus distichus is thought to be prevented from growing further south due to its poor tolerance of desiccation and inability to compete with plants growing further down the shore. The southern distribution of the species is also thought to be limited by day length as shorter day lengths are thought to stimulate the onset of receptacle formation (Bird & McLachlan, 1976). Fucus spiralis can tolerate desiccation until the water content has been reduced to 10-20 % (Lüning, 1990). However if water is lost beyond this critical level irreversible damage occurs. As Fucus spiralis lives close to the upper limit of it's physiological tolerance the species probably cannot tolerate increased desiccation. However, care is needed in extrapolating information on the physiological tolerances of the widespread form of Fucus spiralis to Fucus spiralis f. nana. Increased desiccation equivalent to a change in position of one vertical biological zone on the shore, e.g., from the littoral fringe to the upper littoral fringe or supralittoral would cause the upper limit of both fucoid species distribution, and hence the biotope to become depressed. At the top of its range the biotope will probably become replaced by another biotope such as a lichen dominated one. However, the lower limit of the biotope may also move down the shore. Intolerance is therefore, reported to be intermediate. For recovery see additional information.
Low Very high Very Low No change Moderate
A change in the level of emergence on the shore will affect the upper or lower distribution limit of all the key species. An increase in the period of emersion would subject the species in the biotope to greater desiccation and nutrient stress, leading to reduced growth and a depression in the upper distribution limit. Changes in the numbers of important species are likely to have profound effects on community structure and may result in loss of the biotope at the extremes of its range. For example, at the upper limit the biotope may lose fucoid cover and so change to one dominated by barnacles and limpets or lichens. However, the more widespread form of Fucus spiralis can tolerate an emersion period of 1-2 days so an increase in time spent in air of 1 hour in per day may limit growth and fecundity rather than survival. Although care is needed in extrapolating information on the physiological tolerances of the widespread form of Fucus spiralis to Fucus spiralis f. nana it seems likely that only those species at the extremes of their physiological limits would die. Limpets are able to move down the shore although the loss of a home scar can increase the species vulnerability to predation. Thus, the biotope is likely to be lost only at the very upper limit of its range and so a rank of low is reported. A change in the level of emergence on the shore may also affect the lower distribution limit of all the key species as competition increases lower down the shore. Growth, condition and fecundity are likely to return within several months if pre-impact emersion levels return.
Low Very high Moderate No change Moderate
An decrease in the period of emersion will immerse animals at the bottom of the biotope in seawater for longer which may increase growth rates as the supply of oxygenated water and nutrients increase. However, competition from other species may increase and the biotope could change to another more species rich biotope. The overall effect could simply be a moving of the biotope up the shore so intolerance is assessed as low.
Low Very high Very Low No change Moderate
The water flow rates in which the biotope occurs are not known. However, Fucus distichus and Fucus spiralis f. nana appear to attach very strongly to the substratum because they live in areas exposed to very high wave action. Barnacles can tolerate very high flow rates as they are unlikely to be washed off the substratum although feeding in very strong water flows may be impaired resulting in reduced growth and fecundity. The mollusc Patella vulgata is also able to attach very strongly to rock and populations can adapt to changing water currents through the development of different shell shape and profile. Thus, strong water flow may impair feeding of some fauna but it seems likely that the biotope will survive and so an intolerance of low is reported. Recovery will be immediate on return to normal conditions.
High High Intermediate No change Moderate
A decrease in water flow rates may affect the supply of particulate matter, nutrients and oxygenated water to the biotope. However, since wave exposure in this biotope is high wave action is also likely to bring fresh water supplies and so intolerance to a decrease in water flow rate is likely to be low.
Low High Low No change Low
Schonbeck & Norton (1979) demonstrated that fucoids can increase tolerance in response to gradual change in a process known as 'drought hardening'. However, fucoids are intolerant of sudden changes in temperature and relative humidity with field observations of bleaching and death of plants during periods of hot weather (Hawkins & Hartnoll, 1985). Also, Fucus distichus reaches the southern limit of its distribution in the British Isles, so may be very intolerant of increases in temperature. However, day length is thought to be responsible for the southern limit of the species, which requires short day lengths to stimulate the onset of receptacle formation. However, a short-term increase of 5°C may result in the death of some algal plants, especially at the upper limit of the biotope. However, many plants are likely to survive this temperature increase for a period of only 3 days. The more widespread form of Fucus spiralis has low intolerance to temperature changes and so is not likely to be affected by an increase. Increased temperature is likely to favour chthamalid barnacles rather than Semibalanus balanoides (Southward et al. 1995). Chthamalus spp. are warm water species, with a northern limit of distribution in Britain so are likely to be tolerant of or favourably affected by long term increases in temperature. However, a change in the species of barnacle will not change the nature of the biotope. Patella vulgata is a hardy intertidal species that tolerates long periods of exposure to the air and consequently wide variations in temperature. Therefore, the impact on the biotope of temperature increases at the benchmark level are likely to be the loss of some fucoid plants and sub-lethal effects on growth and fecundity of other plants and species. Thus, the biotope is reported as having low intolerance to the benchmark increases in temperature. On return to normal temperatures original metabolic activity will rapidly resume and new plants will soon recruit so recoverability is set to high.
Low Very high Moderate No change High
Fucus distichus reaches the southern limit of its distribution in the British Isles so decreases in temperature would probably have little effect and also because the species distribution appears to be determined primarily by day length rather than temperature. and may allow the species to colonize further south. The species has been found to tolerate freezing in small rock pools in Maine (Pearson & Davison, 1994). Fucus spiralis also has low intolerance to temperature changes. A decrease in temperature will favour Semibalanus balanoides rather than Chthamalid barnacles which will not change the nature of the biotope. Patella vulgata is largely unaffected by short periods of extreme cold. Ekaratne & Crisp (1984) found adult limpets continuing to grow over winter when temperatures fell to -6 °C, and stopped only by still more severe weather. Therefore, a benchmark decrease in temperature is likely to have only minimal sub-lethal effects on growth and fecundity only. The biotope is therefore of low intolerance to a decrease in temperature. On return to normal temperatures original metabolic activity will rapidly resume so recoverability is set to very high.
Low Very high Very Low No change Moderate
An increase in turbidity would reduce the light available for photosynthesis during immersion which could result in reduced biomass of the algae in the biotope. However, the biotope is found at the upper and mid-tide levels and so is subject to periods of emersion during which time macroalgae can continue to photosynthesize as long as plants have a sufficiently high water content. Therefore, photosynthesis and consequently growth will be unaffected during this period. The overall effects on the overall community dynamics of the biotope are likely to be negligible so intolerance is considered to be low. Upon return to previous turbidity levels the photosynthesis rate would return immediately to normal and growth rates would be restored within a few months. Recovery is therefore, set to very high. The impacts on suspension feeding organisms are addressed under 'suspended sediment' above.
Low Very high Moderate No change Moderate
A decrease in turbidity would increase light availability for photosynthesis during immersion which may result in increased growth rates of the algal species. However, this is not likely to effect the overall community dynamics so the intolerance of the biotope is considered to be low. Upon return to previous turbidity levels the photosynthesis rate would return immediately to normal and growth rates within a few months.
High High Moderate Major decline Moderate
The ELR.Fdis biotope occurs on some of the most exposed coasts in Britain and so is very tolerant of extreme wave exposure. The short tufted form of the fucoids Fucus distichus and Fucus spiralis f. nana enable them to remain attached to the rock even when exposed to severe wave action. However, if wave exposure were to increase further it is likely that most algae and fauna would be lost leaving bare rock so intolerance is high. The biotope extends into some of the severest wave conditions existing around the British and Irish coasts so in reality wave exposure is not likely to increase. See additional information for recovery.
High High Intermediate No change Moderate
A shift to more sheltered conditions may allow other fucoid species to inhabit the shore which are faster growing and would out-compete Fucus distichus. The normal form of Fucus spiralis would predominate over the diminutive form. Barnacle and limpet abundance may increase and lead to the development of a different biotope such as A1.21 barnacle and fucoid biotope commonly found on moderately exposed rocky shores. Thus intolerance is reported to be high as ELR.Fdis would be lost. See additional information for recovery.
Tolerant Not relevant Not relevant No change High
None of the selected key or important species in the biotope are recorded as sensitive to noise although limpets do respond to vibration. However, the biotope as a whole is not likely to be sensitive to changes in noise levels at the benchmark level.
Tolerant Not relevant Not relevant No change High
Algae have no visual perception. Most macroinvertebrates have poor or short range perception and are unlikely to be affected by visual disturbance such as by boats or humans. Although limpets have eyes, visual perception is probably quite limited and as such the species is unlikely to be sensitive to the visual presence of humans on the shore, for example. The biotope is therefore, considered to be not sensitive to the factor.
High High Moderate Minor decline Moderate
The rocky intertidal is not at risk from boating or fishing activity except strandings but is susceptible to physical disturbance and abrasion from trampling. Even very light trampling on shores in the north east of England was sufficient to reduce the abundance of fucoids (Fletcher & Frid, 1996), which in turn reduced the microhabitat available for epiphytic species. Light trampling pressure, of 250 steps in a 20x20 cm plot, one day a month for a period of a year, has been shown to damage and remove barnacles (Brosnan & Crumrine, 1994). Trampling pressure can thus result in an increase in the area of bare rock on the shore (Hill et al., 1998). Chronic trampling can affect community structure with shores becoming dominated by algal turf or crusts. Therefore, an intolerance of high has been recorded. However, if trampling stops recovery should be good. In Oregon for example, the algal-barnacle community recovered within a year after trampling stopped (Brosnan & Crumrine, 1994).
High High Moderate Decline Moderate
intolerance to displacement is high because many of the key species in the biotope, including the fucoids and barnacles are permanently attached to the substratum and cannot re-establish themselves if detached. Epifaunal species such as limpets can re-attach to the substratum if displaced although removal from the home scar is likely to increase the likelihood of predation. Loss of the key species results in loss of the biotope. Recovery should be possible within a few years - see additional information.

Chemical Pressures

 IntoleranceRecoverabilitySensitivityRichnessEvidence/Confidence
High High Moderate Decline Low
There is no information available on the effects of chemicals on the biotope as a whole. However, there is some information on the effects of several chemicals on the species that make up the biotope. Fucoids in general, for example, are reported to exhibit high intolerance to chlorate and pulp mill effluents containing chlorate (Kautsky, 1992). Patella vulgata is extremely intolerant of aromatic solvent based dispersants such as those used in the Torrey Canyon oil spill clean-up (Smith, 1968). However, on rocky coasts of Amlwch in areas close to acidified halogenated effluent from a bromine plant the shore consisted almost entirely of bare rock but there was a fucoid-barnacle mosaic nearby (Hoare & Hiscock, 1974). Therefore, effects depend on the chemical under consideration and there is obviously tolerance to some chemicals. However, intolerance is assessed as high because some chemicals could lead to the loss of the biotope. See additional information for recovery.
Heavy metal contamination
Low Very high Very Low No change Moderate
intolerance of the biotope is low because the key species are fairly robust in terms of heavy metal pollution. Adult fucoid plants appear to be fairly tolerant of heavy metal pollution although earlier life stages may be more sensitive (Holt et al., 1997). Barnacles are able to concentrate heavy metals in their tissues and Patella vulgata is found living in conditions of fairly high metal contamination in the Fal estuary in Cornwall (Bryan & Gibbs, 1983). Recovery from sub-lethal effects will be very high as metabolism and growth return to normal.
Hydrocarbon contamination
Low High Low Minor decline Low
The loss of key herbivores, such as limpets and littorinids, and the subsequent prolific growth of ephemeral algal mats appears to be a fairly consistent feature of coastal oil spills (Hawkins & Southward, 1992). Species richness, diversity and evenness were all much lower in fucoid-barnacle communities at sites close to the Braer oil spill (Newey & Seed, 1995). In the absence of tarry masses of oil which cause physical smothering of sessile animals and mechanical damage to algae, adult fucoids and barnacles occupying primary space in the community are relatively resistant to damage from chemical properties of the oil itself, although some damage will inevitably occur. The most serious effects tend to occur among juvenile and newly settling recruits to the community. However, this biotope is subject to very strong wave action and therefore, oil is likely to be rapidly removed and not cause smothering effects. Intolerance of the biotope is considered to be low. See additional information for recovery.
Radionuclide contamination
No information No information No information Not relevant Not relevant
Insufficient
information.
Changes in nutrient levels
Low Very high Very Low No change Moderate
A reduction in the level of nutrients could reduce growth rates of algal species in the biotope. Nutrient availability is the most important factor controlling germling growth. A slight increase in nutrients may enhance growth rates but high nutrient concentrations could lead to the overgrowth of the algae by ephemeral green algae and an increase in the number of grazers. The effect of sewage discharge on an extremely exposed rocky shore is likely to be low because water movements should limit the build up of particulates and prevent eutrophication. Fucoids appear to be relatively resistant to the input of sewage, and grow apparently healthily to within 20 metres of an outfall discharging untreated sewage in the Isle of Man (Holt et al., 1997). Intolerance of the biotope is therefore assessed as low. Recovery will be rapid as growth responds to changing nutrient levels.
High High Moderate Major decline Low
The biotope occurs in areas of full salinity although will be subject to some variability because of rainfall in the intertidal. However, there are no reports of the biotope occurring in hypersaline areas such as rockpools where evaporation in the summer causes salinity to increase. Therefore, it seems likely that the biotope will be highly intolerant of a long term increase in salinity and a rank of high is reported. See additional information for recovery.
Low High Low Minor decline Moderate
Barnacle and fucoid shores are able to tolerate short term variations in salinity because the littoral zone is regularly exposed to precipitation. Fucus distichus extends into estuaries on the coast of North America. so the biotope may tolerate long term reductions in salinity within its normal tolerance range although growth rates and fecundity are likely to be impaired. Intolerance is therefore, reported to be low. However, the biotope is only found on open exposed coasts.
Low Immediate Not sensitive No change Moderate
Cole et al. (1999) suggest possible adverse effects on marine species below 4 mg/l and probable adverse effects below 2 mg/l. There is no information about key algae species tolerance to changes in oxygenation although Kinne (1972) reports that reduced oxygen concentrations inhibit both algal photosynthesis and respiration. However, since the biotope occurs in the upper eulittoral a proportion of time will be spent in air where oxygen is not limited so the metabolic processes of photosynthesis and respiration can take place. Therefore, for a period of a week reduced oxygenation in the water is likely to have minimal sub-lethal effects and so an intolerance rank of low is reported.

Biological Pressures

 IntoleranceRecoverabilitySensitivityRichnessEvidence/Confidence
Low High Low Minor decline Low
The cryptoniscid isopod Hemioniscus balani is a widespread parasite of barnacles, found around the British Isles. Heavy infestation inhibits or destroys the gonads resulting in castration of the barnacle. High levels of infestation may reduce barnacle abundance and distribution which would impact on patch dominance although no reported cases of this were found. There were no reported occurrences found of the fucoid algae or the biotope being affected by these or any other infestations so intolerance is reported to be low. However, there is always the potential for this to occur so intolerance may change.
Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant No change Moderate
There are no non-native species at present in Britain likely to occur in this biotope.
Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant Not relevant
It is extremely unlikely that the species indicative of sensitivity would be targeted for extraction due to the fact that the biotope occurs on remote and dangerously wave exposed shores. We have no evidence for the indirect effects of extraction of other species on this biotope and not relevant has been suggested.
Low High Low No change Moderate

Additional information

Recoverability
Recovery of the biotope is high because recruitment of key species is fairly rapid and the biotope will look much as before within five years. For example, Fucus distichus (Ang, 1991) and Fucus spiralis have been observed to readily recruit to cleared areas (Hartnoll & Hawkins, 1985; Hawkins & Hartnoll, 1985) and have fast growth rates, so recovery rates are expected to be high. Bennell (1981) observed that barnacle populations removed when the surface rock was scraped off in a barge accident at Amlwch, North Wales returned to pre-accident levels within 3 years. However, barnacle recruitment can be very variable because it is dependent on a suite of environmental and biological factors, such as wind direction, so populations may take longer to recruit to suitable areas. Recolonization of Patella vulgata on rocky shores is rapid as seen by the appearance of limpet spat 6 months after the Torrey Canyon oil spill reaching peak numbers 4-5 years after the spill. Therefore, it seems likely that the biotope should recover within five years.

Importance review

Policy/Legislation

Habitats Directive Annex 1Reefs

Exploitation

It is unlikely that species in this biotope will be exploited. The biotope occurs on remote and dangerously wave exposed shores.

Additional information

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Bibliography

  1. Lewis, J.R., 1968. Water movements and their role in rocky shore ecology. Sarsia, 34 (1), 13-36.
  2. Menge, B.A., 1976. Organization of the New England rocky intertidal community: role of predation, competition, and environmental heterogeneity. Ecological Monographs, 46 (4), 355-393.
  3. Sideman, E. & Mathieson, A., 1983a. Ecological and genecological distinctions of a high intertidal dwarf form of Fucus distichus (L.) Powell in New England. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 72 (2), 171-188.
  4. Sideman, E.J. & Mathieson, A.C., 1983b. The growth, reproductive phenology, and longevity of non-tide-pool Fucus distichus (L.) powell in New England. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 68 (2), 111-127.
  5. Ang, P., 1992a. Cost of reproduction in Fucus distichus. Marine Ecology Progress Series. Oldendorf, 89 (1), 25-35.
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Citation

This review can be cited as:

Perry, F. & Hill, J.M., 2015. Fucus distichus and Fucus spiralis f. nana on extremely exposed upper shore rock. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. Available from: http://www.marlin.ac.uk/habitat/detail/234

Last Updated: 13/10/2015