Green tides select for fast expanding Ulva strains
Fariñas-Franco, Jose M.
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Green tides, the phenomenon whereby large volume of marine environment is taken over by the sea lettuce Ulva spp, are a seasonal occurrence thought to be caused mainly by anthropogenic eutrophication. The aggravation of green tide occurrence since the 1970s could however be due to the amplification of fast-growing strains within these areas. In this study, we compared the growth and metabolite content of 28 green tide Ulva strains against 100 non-green tide strains, under conditions close to those encountered in green tides areas. The aim was to determine whether the presence of specific characteristics intrinsic to green tide strains could in itself be a major factor for their reoccurrence. We confirmed that green tide strains have specific characteristics, with faster tissue expansion, higher protein and pigments, and lower starch content compared to non-green tide ones, thus highlighting a genetic component specific to green tide strains. Dry biomass accumulation, however, was not different between the two types of Ulva strains. Hence, we hypothesise that the selective pressure in green tide areas leads to the amplification of Ulva genotypes best adapted for this environment. Such selection of fast-growing strains would indicate that green tides are likely to become more prevalent and of higher magnitude over the coming years.
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