Early colonization on Artificial Seagrass Units and on Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile leaves

Dorothée C. Pête, Gilles Lepoint, Jean-Marie Bouquegneau, Sylvie Gobert


Many epiphytes grow on Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile leaves but early stages of that colonization are not well known. To study this early colonization without destroying the plant, Artificial Seagrass Units (ASUs) were utilised. The first nine days of colonization by macroscopic eukaryotic organisms on natural P. oceanica leaves and on ASUs were studied. The capability of those ASUs to mimic P. oceanica in the long term was also evaluated. Indeed, early colonists of a substrate can influence the settling of later ones by “priority effects”. Thus if the pioneer community is the same on both substrates, they will more likely be the same after a longer exposure time. On both substrates, colonization began by the settling of crustose-calcareous algae and foraminiferans. The number of organisms increased more quickly on ASUs than on natural leaves but Shannon-Wiener diversity index was higher for P. oceanica leaves. The low colonization rate on natural leaves may have been due to different microclimatic conditions on the two substrates and to a less developed biofilm than on ASUs. The high diversity observed on natural leaves was mainly related to the presence of bryozoan ancestrulae, which were absent on ASUs. Different microhabitats on each substrate (different algae morphotypes) can explain this difference. Thus, at such an early colonization stage, pioneer communities were different on the two substrates, suggesting that later communities would be different too. However, ASUs could be used in environmental perturbation studies instead of natural leaves, thanks to their high colonization rate.


seagrass; artificial substrata; epiphytes; colonization; substrate preferences

Full Text:



Agostini S, Desjobert JM & Pergent G (1998). Distribution of phenolic compounds in the seagrass Posidonia oceanica. Phytochemistry, 48:611-617.

Alcoverro T, Duarte CM & Romero J (1997). The influence of herbivores on Posidonia oceanica epiphytes. Aquatic Botany, 56:93-104.

Barber WE, Greenwood JG & Crocos P (1979). Artificial seagrass - A new technique for sampling the community. Hydrobiologia, 65:135-140.

Belyea LR & Lancaster J (1999). Assembly rules within a contingent ecology. Oikos, 86:402-416.

Bologna PAX & Heck KH (1999). Macrofaunal asociations with seagrass epiphytes: Relative importance of trophic and structural characteristics. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 242:21-39.

Borum J (1987). Dynamics of epiphyton on eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) leaves: Relative roles of algal growth, herbivory, and substratum turnover. Limnology & Oceanography, 32:986-992.

Casola E, Scardi M, Mazzella L & Fresi E (1987). Structure of the epiphytic community of Posidonia oceanica leaves in a shallow meadow. Marine Ecology, 8:285-296.

Cattaneo A & Kalff J (1978). Seasonal changes in the epiphyte community of natural and artificial macrophytes in Lake Memphremagog (Que. & VT.). Hydrobiologia, 60:135-144.

Cebrián J, Enríquez S, Fortes M, Agawin N, Vermaat JE & Duarte CM (1999). Epiphyte accrual on Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile leaves: implication for light absorption. Botanica Marina, 42:123-128.

Connell JH & Slatyer RO (1977). Mechanisms of Succession in Natural Communities and Their Role in Community Stability and Organization. American Naturalist, 111:1119-1144.

Crisp DJ & Ryland JS (1960). Influence of filming and of surface texture on the settlement of marine organisms. Nature, 185:119.

Cuny P, Serve L, Jupin H & Boudouresque CF (1995). Water soluble phenolic compounds of the marine phanerogam Posidonia oceanica in a Mediterranean area colonised by the introduced chlorophyte Caulerpa taxifolia. Aquatic Botany, 52:237-242.

Dahms HU, Dobretsov S & Qian PY (2004). The effect of bacterial and diatoms biofilms on the settlement of the bryozoan Bugula neritina. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 313:191-209.

De Troch M, Vandepitte L, Raes M, Suàrez-Morales E & Vincx M (2005). A field colonization experiment with meiofauna and seagrass mimics: effect of time, distance and leaf surface area. Marine Biology, 148:73-86.

Donnarumma L, Lombardi C, Cocito S & Gambi MC (2014). Settlement pattern of Posidonia oceanica epibionts along a gradient of ocean acidification: an approach with mimics. Mediterranean Marine Science, 15:498-509.

Dumay O, Costa J, Desjobert JM & Pergent G (2004). Variations in the concentration of phenolic compounds in the seagrass Posidonia oceanica under conditions of competition. Phytochemistry, 65:3211-3220.

Edgar GJ (1991). Artificial algae as habitats for mobile epifauna: factors affecting colonization in a Japanese Sargassum bed. Hydrobiologia, 226:111-118.

Gambi MC, Donnarumma L, Lombardi C & Cocito S (2011). Posidonia oceanica mimics as an experimental tool to study colonization of seagrass epiphytes. An example along a gradient of water acidification. Biologia Marina Mediterranea, 18:252-253.

Gartner A, Tuya F, Lavery PS & McMahon K (2013). Habitat preferences of macroinvertebrate fauna among seagrasses with varying structural forms. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 439:143-151.

Giraud G (1979). Sur une méthode de mesure et de comptage des structures foliaires de Posidonia oceanica (Linnaeus) Delile. Bulletin Muséum Histoire Naturelle Marseille, 39:33-39.

Gobert S, Belkhiria S, Dauby P, Havelange S, Soullard M & Bouquegneau JM (1995). Variations temporelles de la phénologie et de la composition biochimique de la phanérogame marine Posidonia oceanica en baie de Calvi. Bulletin de la Société Royale des Sciences de Liège, 64:263-284.

Gobert S, Sartoretto S, Rico-Raimondino V, Andral B, Chery A, Lejeune P & Boissery P (2009). Assessment of the ecological status of Mediterranean French coastal waters as required by the Water Framework Directive using the Posidonia oceanica Rapid Easy Index: PREI. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 58:1727-1733.

Gobert S, Cambridge ML, Velimirov B, Pergent G, Lepoint G, Bouquegneau JM, Dauby P, Pergent-Martini C & Walker DI (2005). Biology of Posidonia. In: Larkum AWD, Orth J & Duarte CM (eds), Seagrass Biology, Springer, The Netherlands:387-408.

Harrison PG & Chan AT (1980). Inhibition of the growth of micro-algae and bacteria by extracts of eelgrass (Zostera marina) leaves. Marine Biology, 61:21-26.

Irving AD, Tanner JE & McDonald BK (2007). Priority effects on faunal assemblages within artificial seagrass. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 340:40-49.

Jacquemart J & Demoulin V (2006). Inventaire des macroalgues épiphytes des feuilles de Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile dans la Baie de la Revellata (Calvi, Corse). Lejeunia, 181:1-71.

Jensen PR, Jenkins KM, Porter D & Fenical W (1998). Evidence that a New Antibiotic Flavone Glycoside Chemically Defends the Sea Grass Thalassia testudinum against Zoosporic Fungi. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 64:1490-1496.

Keough MJ & Raimondi PT (1995). Responses of settling invertebrate larvae to bioorganic films: Effects of different types of films. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 185:235-253.

Keough MJ & Raimondi PT (1996). Responses of settling invertebrate larvae to bioorganic films: Effects of large-scale variation in films. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 207:59-78.

Kerneis A (1960). Contribution à l’étude faunistique et écologique des herbiers de posidonies de la région de Banyuls. Vie Milieu, 11:161-187.

Kevern NR, Wilhm JL & Van Dyne GM (1966). Use of artificial substrata to estimate the productivity of periphyton. Limnology & Oceanography, 11:499-502.

Lavery PS, Reid T, Hyndes GA & Van Elven BR (2007). Effect of leaf movement on epiphytic algal biomass of seagrass leaves. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 338:97-106.

Lee SY, Fong CW & Wu RSS (2001). The effects of seagrass (Zostera japonica) canopy structure on associated fauna: a study using artificial seagrass units and sampling of natural beds. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 259:23-50.

Lepoint G, Balancier B & Gobert S (2014). Seasonal and depth-related biodiversity of leaf epiphytic Cheilostome Bryozoa in a Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadow. Cahiers de Biologie Marine, 55:57-67.

Lepoint G, Nyssen F, Gobert S, Dauby P & Bouquegneau JM (2000). Relative impact of a seagrass bed and its adjacent epilithic algal community in consumer diets. Marine Biology, 136:513-518.

Lepoint G, Jacquemart J, Bouquegneau JM, Demoulin V & Gobert S (2007). Field measurements of inorganic nitrogen uptake by epiflora components of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica (Monocotyledons, Posidoniaceae). Journal of Phycology, 43:208-218.

Mabrouk L, Hamza A, Ben Brahim M & Bradai MN (2011). Temporal and depth distribution of microepiphytes on Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile leaves in a meadow off Tunisia. Marine Ecology, 32:148-161.

Maggi E, Bertocci I, Vaselli S & Benedetti-Cecchi L (2011). Connell and Slatyer’s models of succession in the biodiversity era. Ecology, 92:1399-1406.

Matricardi G, Montagna P & Pisano E (1991). Settlement and growth strategies of Electra posidoniae Gautier on Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile. Bulletin de la Société des Sciences Naturelles de l’Ouest de la France, HS1:255-262.

Mazzella L, Scipione MB & Buia MC (1989). Spatio-temporal distribution of algal and animal communities in a Posidonia oceanica meadow. Marine Ecology, 10:107-129.

Mazzella L, Cinelli F, Ott JA & Klepal W (1981). Studi sperimentali “in situ” sull’epifitismo della Posidonia oceanica Delile. Quaderni del Laboratorio di Tecnologia della Pesca, 3:481-492.

Mazzella L, Buia MC, Gambi MC, Lorenti M, Russo GF, Scipione MB & Zupo V (1992). Plant-animal trophic relationships in the Posidonia oceanica ecosystem of the Mediterranean Sea: a review. In: John DM, Hawkins SJ & Price JH (eds), Plant-animal Interactions in the Marine Benthos, Systematics Association Special Volume, Clarendon Press, Oxford:165-187.

Michel L (2011). Multidisciplinary study of trophic diversity and functional role of amphipod crustaceans associated to Posidonia oceanica meadows. PhD Thesis, University of Liège.

Morri C (1991). Présentation d’un indice synthétique pour l’évaluation de l’épiphytisme foliaire chez Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile. Posidonia Newsletter, 4:33-37.

Novak R (1984). A study in ultra-ecology: microorganisms on the seagrass Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile. Marine Ecology, 5:143-190.

Pergent-Martini C, Leoni V, Pasqualini V, Ardizzone GD, Balestri E, Bedini R, Bellus-cio A, Belsher T, Borg J, Boudouresque CF, Boumaza S, Bouquegneau JM, Buia MC, Calvo S, Cebrian J, Charbonnel E, Cinelli F, Cossu A, Di Maida G, Dural B, Francour P, Gobert S, Lepoint G, Meinesz A, Molenaar H, Mansour HM, Panayotidis P, Peirano A, Pergent G, Piazzi L, Pirrotta M, Relini G, Romero J, Sanchez-Lizaso JL, Semroud R, Shembri P, Tomasello A & Velimirov B (2005). Descriptors of Posidonia oceanica meadows: Use and application. Ecological Indicators, 5:213-230.

Soullard M, Bourge I, Fogel J, Lardinois D, Mathieu T, Veeschkens C, Bay D, Dauby P & Bouquegneau JM (1994). Evolution of the shoot density of the Posidonia oceanica seagrass bed of Calvi Bay (Corsica). Vie Milieu, 44:199-201.

Thelin I & Boudouresque CF (1983). Longévité des feuilles de Posidonia oceanica dans un herbier superficiel de la Baie de Port-Cros (Var, France). Rapport de la Commission Internationale pour l’Exploration Scientifique de la Mer Méditerranée, 28:115-116.

Trautman DA & Borowitzka MA (1999). Distribution of the epiphytic organisms on Posidonia australis and P. sinuosa, two seagrasses with differing leaf morphology Marine Ecology Progress Series, 179:215-229.

Van Der Ben D (1971). Les épiphytes des feuilles de Posidonia oceanica Delile sur les côtes françaises de la Méditerranée. Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique, Mémoires, 168:101.

Van Montfrans J, Wetzel RL & Orth RJ (1984). Epiphyte-grazer relationships in seagrass meadows: consequences for seagrass growth and production. Estuaries, 7:289-309.

Zieman JC & Wetzel RL (1980). Productivity is seagrasses: Methods and rates. In: Phillips RC & McRoy CP (eds), Handbook of seagrass biology - An ecosystem perspective, Garland Publishing, New York:87-116.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.26496/bjz.2015.58


  • There are currently no refbacks.

The Royal Belgian Society of Zoology acknowledges the Universitarian Foundation of Belgium and the National Fund of Scientific Research for their financial support in publishing the Belgian Journal of Zoology.