What are the effects of macroalgal blooms on the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems? A systematic review protocol

Devin A. Lyons, Rebecca C. Mant, Fabio Bulleri, Jonne Kotta, Gil Rilov, Tasman P. Crowe

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Anthropogenic activities are believed to have caused an increase in the magnitude, frequency, and extent of macroalgal blooms in marine and estuarine environments. These blooms may contribute to declines in seagrasses and non-blooming macroalgal beds, increasing hypoxia, and reductions in the diversity of benthic invertebrates. However, they may also provide other marine organisms with food and habitat, increase secondary production, and reduce eutrophication. The objective of this systematic review will be to quantify the positive and negative impacts of anthropogenically induced macroalgal blooms in order to determine their effects on ecosystem structure and functioning, and to identify factors that cause their effects to vary. Methods: We will search a number of online databases to gather empirical evidence from the literature on the impacts of macroalgal blooms on: (1) species richness and other univariate measures of biodiversity; (2) productivity and abundance of algae, plants, and animals; and (3) biogeochemical cycling and other flows of energy and materials, including trophic interactions and cross-ecosystem subsidies. Data from relevant studies will be extracted and used in a random effects meta-analysis in order to estimate the average effect of macroalgal blooms on each response of interest. Where possible, sub-group analyses will be conducted in order to evaluate how the effects of macroalgal blooms vary according to: (1) which part of the ecosystem is being studied (e.g. which habitat type, taxonomic group, or trophic level); (2) the size of blooms; (3) the region in which blooms occurred; (4) background levels of ecosystem productivity; (5) physical and chemical conditions; (6) aspects of study design and quality (e.g. lab vs. field, experimental vs. observational, degree of replication); and (7) whether the blooms are believed to be anthropogenically induced or not.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7
JournalEnvironmental Evidence
Issue number1
StatePublished - 29 Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2012 Lyons et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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