Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

This is a summer annual which germinates in spring or early summer and produces spores in late summer. It reproduces both sexually, by spores, and asexually via small bulbs (1) (2).
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Description

This is a medium-sized alga with simple, equal sized whorls, which are increasingly close together towards to top of the alga, resembling furry fox tails (1) (2).
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Comprehensive Description

Description

 Lamprothamnium papulosum has slender pale green stems, sometimes with yellowish tips, reaching up to 40 cm in height which are anchored in the sediment by fine rhizoids. The main stem gives rise to whorls of simple, equal sized branchlets. The stem of each branchlet bears whorls of slender spines at regular intervals and branchlets are simple either unencrusted or slightly encrusted. The whorls of branchlets become closer together at the top of the stems to give a bushy, 'foxtail' appearance. Lamprothamnium papulosum grows either solitarily or in clumps. Identification of Lamprothamnium papulosum may not be verifiable based on morphological/anatomical information, therefore ideally a small sample should be sent to the National Stonewort Recorder (Nick Stewart) for expert identification.Lamprothamnium papulosum appears to be declining throughout its range and is vulnerable to habitat destruction.
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Distribution

Range

The foxtail stonewort inhabits four sites on the south coast of England in Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. One of these populations is substantial but the others are small. There are also scattered populations in Ireland, along Europe's northern coastline and the Mediterranean coastline as well as isolated populations in southern Africa (1) (2). Hebridean populations have also recently been discovered (2).
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Ecology

Habitat

 Found in fairly still, brackish, nutrient-poor water on sand, gravel, small pebbles and silty substrata. Lamprothamnium papulosum usually grows in water of fluctuating salinity less than 2 m deep, and is often associated with Ruppia maritima or Ruppia cirrhosa communities. This stonewort prefers water of salinities of between 8-28 psu, or 6 gl-1 to 31 gl-1 and total phosphorus lower than 103 g l-. Variation in salinity appears to be important, with >15 gl-1 (24-28 ppt) being optimal for vegetative growth, with a salinity range of > 4 gl-1. Lamprothamnium papulosum has also been recorded from hypersaline conditions in Spain (Jonkers et al., 2003) and Australia (Davis & Lipkin, 1986).  
Some disturbance by livestock/animals may benefit Lamprothamnium papulosum by reducing competitive vascular plants. Habitats for Lamprothamnium papulosum may be transient, due to salinity fluctuations or desiccation in the absence of rainfall/freshwater inputs. Lamprothamnium papulosum is able to quickly recolonize from the spore bank when suitable conditions reoccur. However the saline lagoons habitat itself is rare and threatened.
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As an alga that is specially adapted to tolerate nutrient-poor environments, the foxtail stonewort lives in natural and artificial brackish lagoons with small fluctuations in water level that never exceed two metres (1) (2) (3). Some animal disturbance helps reduce vascular competitors and so encourages foxtail stoneworts. Sand, gravel or pebbles are ideal substrates for growth (1).
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Status

The foxtail stonewort is listed as Vulnerable and is fully protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (1).
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Threats

The saline lagoon habitat which is home to this alga is under threat from land reclamation for industry, agriculture and recreation as well as from water pollution and changes in salinity as a result of interruptions to waterways (1). Nutrient enrichment following fertiliser run-off from farmland is a particular concern since it encourages the growth of vascular plants against which this specialised stonewort cannot compete (3).
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Management

Conservation

All the foxtail stonewort populations are located within Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Natural Nature Reserves and Special Areas of Conservation which provide protection from habitat destruction and endeavour to maintain and enhance existing populations (1) (3).
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