Morphological and Molecular Identification of Ulva spp. (Ulvophyceae; Chlorophyta) from Algarrobo Bay, Chile: Understanding the Composition of Green Tides

Resumen: Green algae blooms of the genus Ulva are occurring globally and are primarily attributed to anthropogenic factors. At Los Tubos beach in Algarrobo Bay along the central Chilean coast, there have been blooms of these algae that persist almost year-round over the past 20 years, leading to environmental, economic, and social issues that affect the local government and communities. The objective of this study was to characterize the species that form these green tides based on a combination of ecological, morpho-anatomical, and molecular information. For this purpose, seasonal surveys of beached algal fronds were conducted between 2021 and 2022. Subsequently, the sampled algae were analyzed morphologically and phylogenetically using the molecular markers ITS1 and tufA, allowing for the identification of at least five taxa. Of these five taxa, three (U. stenophylloides, U. uncialis, U. australis) have laminar, foliose, and distromatic morphology, while the other two (U. compressa, U. aragoensis) have tubular, filamentous, and monostromatic fronds. Intertidal surveys showed that U. stenophylloides showed the highest relative coverage throughout the seasons and all intertidal levels, followed by U. uncialis. Therefore, we can establish that the green tides on the coast of Algarrobo in Chile are multispecific, with differences in relative abundance during different seasons and across the intertidal zone, opening opportunities for diverse future studies, ranging from ecology to algal biotechnology.

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