Ecology of the Invasive Red Alga Gracilaria salicornia (Rhodophyta) on O'ahu, Hawai'i

Smith, Jennifer E.
Hunter, Cynthia L.
Conklin, Eric J.
Most, Rebecca
Sauvage, Thomas
Squair, Cheryl
Smith, Celia M.
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University of Hawai'i Press
The red alga Gracilaria salicornia (C. Agardh) E. Y. Dawson was introduced intentionally to two reefs on O'ahu, Hawai'i, in the 1970s for experimental aquaculture for the agar industry. Some 30 yr later, this species has spread from the initial sites of introduction and is now competing with native marine flora and fauna. The goals of this study were to quantify various aspects of G. salicornia ecology in Hawai'i in an effort to develop control or eradication tools. Experimental plots were established to determine cover and biomass of G. salicornia per square meter and to determine the amount of time and person hours needed to remove G. salicornia from these plots. Substantial amounts of G. salicornia become dislodged from the reef during large wave events and periodically become deposited onto the beach in front of the Waikiki Aquarium. Algal beach wash biomass was quantified and positive relationships were established between swell height and the amount of algae that washed up onto the beach in this location. We then quantified the ability of G. salicornia vegetative fragments to regrow after desiccation to determine if algal biomass stranded on shore survives the tidal cycle until being washed back out on the reef at high tide. Gracilaria salicornia was remarkably resistant to temperature, salinity, and chemical treatments examined as possible in situ control options. Herbivore preference tests showed that a native Gracilaria species is consumed far more frequently than the alien congener. Finally, large-scale community volunteer efforts were organized to remove drifting G. salicornia fragments from the reef area in front of the Waikiki Aquarium. Over 20,000 kg of alien algal fragments were removed from this location in five 4-hr cleanup events. However, based on G. salicornia growth rates, ability to fragment, physical tolerance, and low herbivory, it is clear that a large-scale dedicated effort will be needed to control this invasive species on Waikiki's reefs.
Smith JE, Hunter CL, Conklin EJ, Most R, Sauvage T, Squair C, Smith CM. 2004. Ecology of the invasive red alga Gracilaria salicornia (Rhodophyta) on O'ahu, Hawai'i. Pac Sci 58(2): 325-343.
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