Photo courtesy of Courtney Miller


Sample of F. spiralis - Found of public domain - Click to follow to sourceThere's just not enough room
Fucus vesiculosus is not the only algae in its environment. Bladderwrack faces competition from a number of other algae such as Ascophyllum nodosum and Fucus spiralis (shown to the left). The competition between these species seems very intense, but somehow F. vesiculosus is able to remain the dominant species in most places along the coast. The reason for this is because F. vesiculosus is able to grow a lot faster than either of the aforementioned species. Other species, however, can outgrown bladderwrack, but these tend to have a shorter life span. Once the species has died off, F. vesiculosus is able to restart its growth and once again become the dominant species  in the area. The only thing that bladderwrack has going against it is its shorter lifespan of 4-5 years, but it is able to overcome this in most cases.

Bladderwrack serves another function in its ecosystem other than a primary producer; it provides shelter for many organisms. Since bladderwrack grows so densely in areas, many species are able to seek protection from predators in the thalli of bladderwrack. The brown algae also provides protection against the current and waves, and also shields many organisms from the suns rays and the heat that comes with it.

Fucus vesiculosus - Courtesy of Ester SerraoEat or be eaten
Unfortunately, bladderwrack has no means to eat organisms that are feeding on it. There are quite a few marine species of gastropods, or snails, that use bladderwrack as its main means of nutrition. An example would be Littorina littoralis. There is also a yellow-shelled snail on the bladderwrack thallus in the picture to the right. Can you spot it? You can also learn more about gastropods by visiting this site. But not only do marine organisms eat bladderwrack, humans do as well. According to, Buttered Bladderwrack is a traditional British dish that goes well with any main course.

Fucus vesiculosus is also a major source of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), which is a broad set of molecules that dissolve into the water once they are released by the organism.  DOCs are the main source of nutrients for many microorganisms that live in the vicinity of F. vesiculosus. They are also the main way in which carbon cycles around not only an ecosystem, but the world as a whole. DOCs are produced by many marine and aquatic organisms, and can be found in any body of water that contains life, from streams to seas.


Home            Next: Implications