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Biological Sciences


Macroalgal blooms occur worldwide and have the potential to cause severe ecological and economic damage. Narragansett Bay, RI is a eutrophic system that experiences summer macroalgal blooms composed mostly of Ulva compressa and Ulva rigida, which have biphasic life cycles with separate haploid and diploid phases. In this study, we used flow cytometry to assess ploidy levels of U. compressa and U. rigida populations from five sites in Narragansett Bay, RI, USA, to assess the relative contribution of both phases to bloom formation. Both haploid gametophytes and diploid sporophytes were present for both species. Sites ranged from a relative overabundance of gametophytes to a relative overabundance of sporophytes, compared to the null model prediction of √2 gametophytes: 1 sporophyte. We found significant differences in cell area between ploidy levels for each species, with sporophyte cells significantly larger than gametophyte cells in U. compressa and U. rigida. We found no differences in relative growth rate between ploidy levels for each species. Our results indicate the presence of both phases of each of the two dominant bloom forming species throughout the bloom season, and represent one of the first studies of in situ Ulva life cycle dynamics.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Malcolm McFarland is affiliated with the Graduate School of Oceanography.