Population parameters of the sea urchin Arbacia dufresnii (Blainville, 1825) from North Patagonian gulfs invaded by kelp Undaria pinnatifida (Harvey) Suringar, 1873.

The Asian seaweed Undaria pinnatifida invaded Argentina in 1992 (Golfo Nuevo, Patagonia). Its range has expanded and it has changed the native benthic community. Sea urchins are usually generalist herbivores that have a key role in controlling seaweeds. Arbacia dufresnii is the most abundant sea urchin in the coastal areas of northern Patagonia. The aim of this study was to relate the population parameters of A. dufresnii to the presence of the invasive seaweed. In 2012 we sampled sites with different invasion stages (advanced: Golfo Nuevo, recently invaded: San José Gulf, Punta Tehuelche; no invasion: San José Gulf, Zona 39). Sea urchin density was higher in the invaded sites and varied with the seaweed cycle. In addition, there were variations in the size distribution in the invaded sites. The invasive algae probably affects urchin populations because it is a new source of food that changes environmental structure (it provides microhabitat for new recruits) and affects the native benthic community. Rev. Biol. Trop. 65(Suppl. 1): S101-S112. Epub 2017 November 01.

Keywords: Echinoidea, Density, Size Structure, Biological Invasions, Patagonia.