Pacific Rocky Intertidal Monitoring: Trends and Synthesis

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Endocladia (Turfweed)

Endocladia muricata (J. Agardh 1841)

Kingdom Plantae, phylum Rhodophyta, class Florideophyceae, order Gigartinales

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Description

Thalli are densely bushy, dark red to blackish brown tufts, 4-8 cm tall. Branches are cylindrical throughout, covered with small conical spines (Abbott and Hollenberg 1976)

Habitat and Geographic Range

Locally abundant on tops or vertical faces of rocks or epiphytic on other organisms (e.g. mussels and barnacles) in the high to mid-intertidal zones. Alaska to Punto Santo Tomas, Baja California, including Channel Islands (Abbott and Hollenberg 1976).

Synonyms

Previously known as Gigartina muricata

Similar species

Gelidium pusillum and Caulacanthus ustulatus. G. pusillum lacks spines on its branches and has more spatulate tips. C. ustulatus is redder, finer, and not as rough to the touch.

Natural History

Endocladia is common north of Point Conception and one of the most common algae in central California, forming distinctive dark bands along the upper shoreline. Endocladia abundance fades in warmer waters to the south, being largely replaced in lower portions of its zone by other small red algae (e.g. Gelidium spp.)  Endocladia often grows with other small reds (e.g. Mastocarpus papillatus, Gelidium spp.) to form a low, tight turf that traps sediment and moisture, and provides a sheltered microhabitat for a host of small organisms. Glynn (1965) found over 90 species associated with Endocladia clumps in Monterey. Endocladia has been shown to facilitate recruitment of Silvetia compressa, possibly by providing propagules protection from dislodgement, grazing, and/or desiccation (Johnson and Brawley 1998). Turfweed also can provide habitat for attachment of young mussels. Expanding mussel patches may displace Endocladia, but it can then grow on the mussel shells, creating a layered assemblage. Some Endocladia clumps appear donut- or crescent-shaped; this condition may be caused by storms tearing out center areas possibly weakened by accumulated anoxic sediment.

Endocladia is hardy and quite resistant to desiccation, yet vulnerable to oiling from spills due to its location in the high intertidal. Recovery from natural or human disturbances may vary from 1 to more than 6 years (see Kinnetics 1992).

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