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. 2017 Nov 14;5:e4048.
doi: 10.7717/peerj.4048. eCollection 2017.

North Atlantic Oscillation Drives the Annual Occurrence of an Isolated, Peripheral Population of the Brown Seaweed Fucus guiryi in the Western Mediterranean Sea

Free PMC article

North Atlantic Oscillation Drives the Annual Occurrence of an Isolated, Peripheral Population of the Brown Seaweed Fucus guiryi in the Western Mediterranean Sea

Ignacio J Melero-Jiménez et al. PeerJ. .
Free PMC article


The canopy-forming, intertidal brown (Phaeophyceae) seaweed Fucus guiryi is distributed along the cold-temperate and warm-temperate coasts of Europe and North Africa. Curiously, an isolated population develops at Punta Calaburras (Alboran Sea, Western Mediterranean) but thalli are not present in midsummer every year, unlike the closest (ca. 80 km), perennial populations at the Strait of Gibraltar. The persistence of the alga at Punta Calaburras could be due to the growth of resilient, microscopic stages as well as the arrival of few-celled stages originating from neighbouring localities, and transported by the permanent Atlantic Jet flowing from the Atlantic Ocean into the Mediterranean. A twenty-six year time series (from 1990 to 2015) of midsummer occurrence of F. guiryi thalli at Punta Calaburras has been analysed by correlating with oceanographic (sea surface temperature, an estimator of the Atlantic Jet power) and climatic factors (air temperature, rainfall, and North Atlantic Oscillation -NAO-, and Arctic Oscillation -AO- indexes). The midsummer occurrence of thalli clustered from 1990-1994 and 1999-2004, with sporadic occurrences in 2006 and 2011. Binary logistic regression showed that the occurrence of thalli at Punta Calaburras in midsummer is favoured under positive NAO index from April to June. It has been hypothesized that isolated population of F. guiryi should show greater stress than their congeners of permanent populations, and to this end, two approaches were used to evaluate stress: one based on the integrated response during ontogeny (developmental instability, based on measurements of the fractal branching pattern of algal thalli) and another based on the photosynthetic response. Although significant differences were detected in photosynthetic quantum yield and water loss under emersion conditions, with thalli from Punta Calaburras being more affected by emersion than those from Tarifa, the developmental instability showed that the population from Tarifa suffers higher stress during ontogeny than that from Punta Calaburras. In conclusion, this study demonstrates the teleconnection between atmospheric oscillations and survival and proliferation of marine macroalgae.

Keywords: Developmental instability; Fucus guiryi; North Atlantic Oscillation; Photosynthesis; Stress.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare there are no competing interests.


Figure 1
Figure 1. Map of study sites, oceanographic conditions and herbarium sheets.
Map of the area near the Strait of Gibraltar (A) showing the two sampling points of Fucus guiryi on the SW Iberian Peninsula (Tarifa and Punta Calaburras). Mean Sea Surface Temperature (SST) of weekly SST images 1998–2014 (cold upwelled water in blue (17 °C) and warm water of the Western Alboran Anticyclon in red (20 °C) as well as a schematic circulation pattern. Herbarium sheets of F. guiryi collected at Punta Calaburras (B) and Tarifa (C). It must be noted that the samples are identified according to the synonim Fucus spiralis.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Tidal range and vertical ranges of Fucus guiryi at Tarifa and at Punta Calaburras.
Daily (hours:minutes, Coordinated Universal Time) tidal height at Tarifa and maximum tidal range at Punta Calaburras on 16th July 2011, and vertical ranges of Fucus guiryi at Tarifa and Punta Calaburras. Daily tidal regime at Punta Calaburras has not been included because no data are available.
Figure 3
Figure 3. Binary logistic regression of occurence of Fucus guiryi as a function of NAO3.
Probability (white circles) and presence (1)/absence (0) (black circles) of Fucus guiryi at Punta de Calaburras from 1990 to 2015, as a function of the North Atlantic Oscillation averaged for the months between April and June (NAO3), as an explanatory independent environmental variable.
Figure 4
Figure 4. Daily course of PAR, UV-A and UV-B solar radiation.
Daily course of PAR (black circles, continuous line), and UV-A (white circles, dotted line) and UV-B (black squares, dotted line) radiation at Tarifa, on 16th July 2011.
Figure 5
Figure 5. Daily course (hours:minutes, Coordinated Universal Time) of the FvFm (A), ΦPSII (B) ETRrel (C) and water tissue content (D) of Fucus guiryi from Tarifa (black symbols, continuous lines) and from Punta de Calaburras (white symbols, dotted lines) in air (squares) and water (circles).
The measurements were carried out on 16th July 2011 in Tarifa, and the next day in Punta de Calaburras.

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Grant support

This work was supported by the project “Variabilidad funcional y dinámica de las respuestas al cambio climático de bosques marinos (MARFOR)” from the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Competitividad, (Acciones de Programación Conjunta Internacional, PCIN-2016-090). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

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