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Seasonal variation in the biomass, quantity and quality of agar from Gelidiella acerosa (Forsskal) Feldmann et Hamel (Gelidiales, Rhodophyta) from the Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve, India

, : Seasonal variation in the biomass, quantity and quality of agar from Gelidiella acerosa (Forsskal) Feldmann et Hamel (Gelidiales, Rhodophyta) from the Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve, India. Phycological Research 56(2): 93-104

The Gulf of Mannar on the southeast coast of India, which has recently been declared as biosphere reserve, is the main harvesting place of Gelidiella acerosa for the Indian agar industry. The biomass harvested from natural stocks was estimated to be over 10 000 tonnes dry weight (DW) in the last two decades and is a serious cause of concern on long term sustainability of this valuable resource from this region. The present study reports the seasonal variation in the biomass and agar yield and quality from G. acerosa in four different habitats such as Rameswaram (rocky intertidal), Ervadi (lower intertidal), Sethukarai (subtidal) and Krusadai Island (lagoon reef area). A maximum biomass of 260 +/- 26 g DW m(-2) was recorded from Ervadi, whereas Sethukarai showed the highest percentage cover (69.83 +/- 4.83%) and density (208.20 +/- 30.16 plants m(-2)). Biomass, percentage cover and density were lowest in Rameswaram and significantly lower (P < 0.001) than the other three stations. A single peak in biomass was observed with autumn maxima in Ervadi and Rameswaram and southwest monsoon maxima in Sethukarai and Krusaidai Island. Length of G. acerosa was maximum (9.65 +/- 0.25 cm) in Ervadi and the branch index value was maximum (24.70 +/- 4.01 br(-1) g(-1) DW) for Rameswaram. Agar yield (37.24 +/- 7.59%) and gel strength (448.66 +/- 6.50 g/cm(2)) were higher in Sethukarai plants. The agar yields attained a peak in the northeast monsoon and decreased in summer, whereas a reverse trend was observed for gel strength. Evidently, agar yield showed a strong negative correlation with gel strength (P < 0.0001) and gelling (P < 0.0001) and melting temperatures (P < 0.01). The single annual peak in biomass observed in the present study, as compared with two peaks reported earlier, are attributed to the continuous overharvesting that would have had an effect on the overall annual biomass production. The findings of this study reveal that a single harvest during the autumn months (January to March) could yield optimum biomass with moderate agar and that would be the best for sustainable usage and conservation of this resource from this region.


DOI: 10.1111/j.1440-1835.2008.00490.x

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