MarLIN

information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

A brown seaweed (Fucus distichus)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.

Summary

Description

A small tufted brown alga. It has narrow fronds without airbladders and short receptacles. The species has a lifespan of 3 years and grows up to 30 cm long.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Restricted to northern shores of Scotland and north and west Ireland.

Global distribution

Norway, northern Scotland, Iceland, Greenland, eastern North America from Labrador to Maine and the Pacific coast of America discontinuously from Alaska to California

Habitat

Occurs in rock pools and on rock faces in the upper eulittoral at wave exposed locations in Scotland & Ireland.

Depth range

Not relevant

Identifying features

  • Narrow frond without airbladders.
  • Caecostomata rare.
  • Receptacles short, typically 18 mm, max. 40 mm.
  • Plants small, typically 10 cm long at maturity (max. 30 cm).

Additional information

No text entered

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Biology review

Taxonomy

PhylumOchrophyta
ClassPhaeophyceae
OrderFucales
FamilyFucaceae
GenusFucus
AuthorityLinnaeus, 1767
Recent SynonymsFucus distichus distichus Powell 1957aFucus distichus anceps Linnaeus, 1767

Biology

Typical abundanceModerate density
Male size rangeUp to 30cm
Male size at maturity10cm
Female size range10cm
Female size at maturity
Growth formFoliose
Growth rate10cm/year
Body flexibility
Mobility
Characteristic feeding methodAutotroph
Diet/food source
Typically feeds on
Sociability
Environmental positionEpifloral
DependencyIndependent.
SupportsNo information
Is the species harmful?Data deficient

Biology information

The morphology of Fucus distichus is remarkably varied. Powell (1957a) recognised four subspecies, which were later separated into two distinct species (Fucus distichus and Fucus evanescens) by Rice and Chapman (1985). In its rock pool habit on the east coast of North America Fucus distichus is considered by Pearson & Davison (1994) to be slow growing, a poor competitor and stress intolerant. Adults of Fucus distichus are very tolerant of grazing due to a high content of phlorotannin, but germlings do not have any protection and are susceptible to grazing by littorinids.

Habitat preferences

Physiographic preferencesOpen coast
Biological zone preferencesUpper eulittoral
Substratum / habitat preferencesBedrock, Large to very large boulders
Tidal strength preferencesModerately Strong 1 to 3 knots (0.5-1.5 m/sec.), Strong 3 to 6 knots (1.5-3 m/sec.), Very Weak (negligible), Weak < 1 knot (<0.5 m/sec.)
Wave exposure preferencesExtremely exposed, Very exposed
Salinity preferencesFull (30-40 psu), Variable (18-40 psu)
Depth rangeNot relevant
Other preferences

No text entered

Migration PatternNon-migratory / resident

Habitat Information

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.

Life history

Adult characteristics

Reproductive typePermanent (synchronous) hermaphrodite
Reproductive frequency Annual protracted
Fecundity (number of eggs)
Generation time1-2 years
Age at maturity2
SeasonApril - August
Life span2-5 years

Larval characteristics

Larval/propagule type-
Larval/juvenile development Not relevant
Duration of larval stageNo information
Larval dispersal potential No information
Larval settlement periodNot relevant

Life history information

  • Receptacles of Fucus distichus are initiated in December, they become ripe in April and gametes are released from April to August. Plants usually become mature when 100mm long. The whole plant dies back after reproducing and is removed from the rock by wave action during its third winter. Most plants live for 2 to 3 years (Powell, 1957b).
  • Fucus distichus 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-fertilisation 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).

Sensitivity reviewHow is sensitivity assessed?

Physical pressures

 IntoleranceRecoverabilitySensitivityEvidence/Confidence
High High Moderate Moderate
Fucus distichus lives permanently attached to rock so would be removed upon substratum loss. The species has been observed to readily recruit to cleared areas (Ang, 1991) and has fast growth rates, so recovery rates should be high.
High High Moderate Moderate
The effect of smothering depends on the state of the tide when the factor occurred. If smothering happened while the plant was emersed the whole plant would be buried underneath the sediment preventing photosynthesis. If smothering occurred while the plant was immersed the impact of smothering would be lessened because some of the fronds would escape burial. The species has been observed to readily recruit to cleared areas (Ang, 1991) and has fast growth rates, so recovery rates should be high.
Low Very high Very Low Moderate
Silt may cover some of the frond surfaces reducing light available for photosynthesis and lowering growth rates. On return to normal siltation levels the normal growth rate would be quickly restored.
No information
High High Moderate Moderate
Fucus distichus is intolerant of desiccation, but the critical water content is not known. Increases in desiccation would cause the upper limit of the species distribution to become depressed. Decreases in desiccation may allow the upper limit of the species to extend up the shore. The species has been observed to readily recruit to cleared areas of the shore (Ang, 1991) and has fast growth rates, so recovery rates should be high.
High High Moderate Moderate
Fucus distichus would suffer desiccation, nutrient stress and extremes of temperature when exposed to air. Increases in the period of emergence would cause the upper limit of the species distribution to become depressed. Decreases in the period of emergence may cause the species to extend further up the shore. The species has been observed to readily recruit to cleared areas (Ang, 1991) and has fast growth rates, so recovery rates should be high.
No information
Low High Low Low
Increased water flow rate may cause plants to be torn off the substratum. However, Fucus distichus appears to attach very strongly to the substratum because it lives in areas exposed to very high wave action and strong water currents.
No information
High High Moderate Moderate
Fucus distichus reaches the southern limit of its distribution in the British Isles, so would probably be very intolerant of increases in temperature. Decreases in temperature would probably have little effect 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).
No information
Low Very high Very Low Moderate
Turbidity would reduce light available for photosynthesis and so lower growth rates. On return to normal turbidity levels the normal growth rate would be restored.
No information
Intermediate High Low Low
Fucus distichus has been recorded worldwide from very sheltered to very exposed conditions, but in Britain & Ireland it is mainly found on very exposed shores. 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. An increase in the level of wave exposure may result in plants being torn off the substratum. Provided nearby Fucus distichus populations are maintained, recovery rates should be high because the species has been observed to rapidly recruit to cleared areas (Ang, 1991).
No information
Tolerant Not relevant Not sensitive Not relevant
Seaweeds have no known mechanism for sound perception.
Tolerant Not relevant Not sensitive Not relevant
Seaweeds have no known mechanism for visual perception.
Intermediate High Low Low
Abrasion may damage the fronds of established seaweeds and kill germlings of Fucus distichus. Human trampling has been shown to significantly reduce the cover of fucoids on a shore (Holt et al., 1997) but trampling is unlikely to occur on the very exposed shores on which Fucus distichus lives. The species has been observed to readily recruit to cleared areas (Ang, 1991) and has fast growth rates, so recovery rates should be high.
High High Moderate Moderate
Fucus distichus lives permanently attached to the substratum and upon removal it cannot re-establish an attachment. The species has been observed to readily recruit to cleared areas (Ang, 1991) and has fast growth rates, so recovery rates should be high.

Chemical pressures

 IntoleranceRecoverabilitySensitivityEvidence/Confidence
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
Fucoids are generally robust in the face of chemical pollution (Holt et al., 1997), but no studies have been carried out on this particular species.
Heavy metal contamination
Low Very high Very Low Very low
No studies have been carried out on this particular species. However, fucoids are generally robust in the face of chemical pollution and do not appear to be harmed by heavy metals (Holt et al., 1997). Intolerance is therefore, reported to be low.
Hydrocarbon contamination
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
Fucoids are generally robust in the face of chemical pollution (Holt et al., 1997), but no studies have been carried out on this particular species.
Radionuclide contamination
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information
Changes in nutrient levels
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information
Low High Low Low
Fucus distichus lives on shores where it is frequently drenched in rain water, so it must be able to withstand variations in salinity. The species also extends into estuaries on the coast of North America.
No information
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
Fucus distichus is unlikely to be affected by a reduction in oxygen levels because it can generate its own oxygen by photosynthesis. However, no studies have been found to support this.

Biological pressures

 IntoleranceRecoverabilitySensitivityEvidence/Confidence
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information
Intermediate High Low Moderate
Fucus distichus would be able to recover within five years if 50 percent of the area was cleared. The species has been observed to recruit readily to cleared areas (Ang, 1991) and has a reasonably fast growth rate.
No information Not relevant No information Not relevant
Insufficient
information

Additional information

Importance review

Policy/legislation

UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority
Features of Conservation Importance (England & Wales)

Status

Non-native

Importance information

-none-

Bibliography

  1. Ang, P.O., Jr., 1991. Natural dynamics of a Fucus distichus (Phaeophyta, Fucales) population: reproduction and recruitment. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 78, 71-85.

  2. Fish, J.D. & Fish, S., 1996. A student's guide to the seashore. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  3. Hardy, F.G. & Guiry, M.D., 2003. A check-list and atlas of the seaweeds of Britain and Ireland. London: British Phycological Society

  4. Holt, T.J., Hartnoll, R.G. & Hawkins, S.J., 1997. The sensitivity and vulnerability to man-induced change of selected communities: intertidal brown algal shrubs, Zostera beds and Sabellaria spinulosa reefs. English Nature, Peterborough, English Nature Research Report No. 234.

  5. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  6. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line] http://www.jncc.gov.uk/mermaid

  7. Norton, T.A. (ed.), 1985. Provisional Atlas of the Marine Algae of Britain and Ireland. Huntingdon: Biological Records Centre, Institute of Terrestrial Ecology.

  8. Pearson, G.A. & Davison, I.R., 1994. Freezing stress and osmotic dehydration in Fucus distichus (Phaeophyta): evidence for physiological similarity. Journal of Phycology, 30, 257-267.

  9. Powell, H.T., 1957. Studies in the genus FucusL. , I. Fucus distichus L. emend. Powell Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 36, 407-431.

  10. Powell, H.T., 1957b. Studies on the genus Fucus L. II. Distribution and ecology of Fucus distichus L. emend Powell in Britain and Ireland. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 36, 663-693.

  11. Rice, E.L. & Chapman, A.R.O., 1985. A numerical taxonomic study of Fucus distichus (Phaeophyta). Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 65, 433-459.

  12. Rice, E.L., Kenchington, T.J. & Chapman, A.R.O., 1985. Intraspecific geographic-morphological variation patterns in Fucus distichus and F. evanescens. Marine Biology, 88, 207-215.

Citation

This review can be cited as:

White, N. 2007. Fucus distichus A brown seaweed. 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/species/detail/1350

Last Updated: 03/09/2007