Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Marine Botany

Enteromorpha Distribution

UPDATE: Enteromorpha: synonymous with the genus Ulva

See Linnaeus was right all along: Ulva and Enteromorpha are not distinct genera. in Eur. J. Phycol (August 2003) 38: 277-293.

Old text: Enteromorpha is distributed throughout the world, in a wide variety of environments. Enteromorpha can tolerate salinities varying from freshwater to seawater, and Enteromorpha has also been reported to be able to survive in salt springs and salt mines. This variation is not only found in the genus as a whole, but also in single species. E. intestinalis can grow on the ocean coast, in brackish waters, and inland in freshwater.

Enteromorpha can also grow on a wide variety of substrates, growing on sand, mud, or rock, and even wood, concrete or metal. Enteromorpha can also grow without any substrate. In some inland waterways, such as Elkhorn Slough in Monterey Bay, Enteromorpha will become detached from the muddy substrate, rise to the surface, and then continue to grow, covering the surface of the water with a green layer of algae.

Enteromorpha is also able to grow throughout the intertidal littoral plane. Enteromorpha has been found growing above the high tide mark, in the spray zone, as well as below the low tide limit. Enteromorpha is also excellent at colonizing unpopulated areas, and is often the first algae to settle on cleared areas, both on shores and on ships. Because of this, Enteromorpha is the cause of much annoyance and expense for ship owners. Enteromorpha is especially well suited to grow on ships because it can withstand changes in temperature and salinity so well. It is also possible that Enteromorpha's worldwide distribution is due in part to its well adapted ability to hitch a ride on ships. Conversely, it could be thatEnteromorpha is able to grow on sea vessels so easily because it has adapted to a worldwide distribution.

In Monterey Bay, the author found abundant amounts of Enteromorpha in Elkhorn Slough, as well as in Stillwater Cove at Pebble Beach. Enteromorpha was also found in the harbor and at Hopkins Marine Station on Fisher Beach.

Enteromorpha at Elkhorn Slough. At times, Enteromorpha can become so abundant that it covers the Slough almost completely.

Enteromorpha can often be found growing with Ulva, however, it will also grow with other algae, in a variety of different habitats. The following photographs illustrate some of these environments.

This photograph was taken on Fisher Beach, at Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, CA.

1. Endocladia (nail brush seaweed)
2. Enteromorpha (green string lettuce)
3. Fucus (rock weed)
4. Mastocarpus (tiny Turkish towel)

This photograph was taken in Stillwater Cove, at Pebble Beach, CA. Porphyra was also found growing near Enteromorpha at the Hopkins Marine Station, in Pacific Grove, CA.

1. Enteromorpha (green string lettuce)
2. Porphyra (nori)

Last updated: Feb. 05, 2009