Biology and Ecological Functioning


This section draws together information from diverse sources on the biology and ecology of maerl species and maerl biotopes in order to provide a background for the design of efficient management plans and monitoring programmes for maerl conservation. The numbers of species and the biological variety of the species which may form part of the maerl biotopes are extensive. For the majority of the living components of a maerl bed, not only are the interactions between different species unknown, but the basic biology of many of the component species is also unknown. Emphasis here is on the biology and ecology, as presently known, of the main maerl-forming coralline algae in UK waters, Lithothamnion corallioides, L. glaciale and Phymatolithon calcareum. In interpreting the results of laboratory studies on biological characteristics of these species, it must be stressed that, while maerl beds are usually composed of a combination of L. corallioides, L. glaciale and P. calcareum, the proportions in which the species are present may vary widely between adjacent sites and over time, and may include other, rarer, maerl-forming species.

Biological Characteristics

Ecological Roles