Deterioration of sediment quality in seagrass meadows (Posidonia oceanica) invaded by macroalgae (Caulerpa sp.)

Marianne Holmer*, Núria Marbà, Morgane Lamote, Carlos M. Duarte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Species of the macroalgae Caulerpa sp. are increasingly being observed in meadows of the endemic Mediterranean seagrass Posidonia oceanica, and in particular Caulerpa taxifolia, has been considered as an invasive species leading to seagrass decline. Studies have so far failed to reveal the underlying mechanisms of the success of the macroalgae, and here, we examine how biogeochemical changes of the environment associated to indigenous (Caulerpa prolifera) and non-indigenous (Caulerpa racemosa and C. taxifolia) species affect the habitat of P. oceanica. Two of the species (C. prolifera and C. racemosa) affect the sediment biogeochemical conditions by increasing organic matter pools, microbial activity, and sulfide pools of the sediments, and limited effects were found for C. taxifolia. Biomass of the macroalgae contributed to the extent of impacts, and high sulfide invasion into the seagrasses and regression of the meadow were pronounced at the location with the highest Caulerpa biomass. This suggests that Caulerpa invasion contributes to seagrass decline probably because Caulerpa thrives better than the seagrasses in the modified environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)456-466
Number of pages11
JournalEstuaries and Coasts
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Mediterranean
  • Non-indigenous macroalgae
  • Seagrass decline
  • Sediment biogeochemistry
  • Sulfide pools

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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