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Keywords:

  • allometry;
  • Chondrus;
  • clonal;
  • Gelidiales;
  • Gigartinales;
  • Mazzaella;
  • population ecology;
  • Pterocladiella;
  • ramet;
  • Rhodophyta

Little is known about the dynamics and the ecological interactions among ramets (fronds) from populations of clonal red seaweeds. Small ramets are very difficult to tag, so their growth cannot be monitored directly. The temporal variation of the relationship between stand biomass and ramet density offers information on ramet performance. We calculated this relationship for an intertidal population of Pterocladiella capillacea (Gmelin) Santelices et Hommersand (Gelidiales) from Baja California, Mexico. Biomass and density were positively correlated on an annual basis, indicating that biomass accumulated without involving self-thinning among ramets. This contrasts with nonclonal seaweeds, for which self-thinning among individuals occurs during growth, but agrees with other clonal red seaweeds, such as Chondrus crispus Stackhouse and Mazzaella cornucopiae (Postels et Ruprecht) Hommersand (both Gigartinales). The growth pattern for these members of the Gelidiales and of the Gigartinales holds despite differences in holdfast morphology and ramet branching degree and despite differences in the capacity of coalescence during early stages, known only for the Gigartinales. The positive slope for the dynamic biomass–density relationship, on a bilogarithmic scale, was statistically steeper for M. cornucopiae than for P. capillacea and for C. crispus. This suggests that the addition of new ramets during the growth season may be relatively more beneficial for biomass accumulation rates for M. cornucopiae. This would be expected for high-intertidal species subjected to strong abiotic stress, for which ramet crowding constitutes a key protection. Pterocladiella capillacea occurs at the mid-intertidal zone and C. crispus at the subtidal zone, so ramets would be relatively less important in that respect.