MEPS 467:281-302 (2012)  -  doi:10.3354/meps09940

Production and fate of kelp detritus

Kira A. Krumhansl*, Robert E. Scheibling

Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

ABSTRACT: The flow of detritus between habitats is an important form of connectivity that affects regional productivity and the spatial organization of marine ecosystems. Kelps form highly productive beds or forests that produce detritus through incremental blade erosion, fragmentation of blades, and dislodgement of whole fronds and thalli. Rates of detrital production range from 8 to 2657 g C m−2 yr−1 for blade erosion and fragmentation, and from 22 to 839 g C m−2 yr−1 for loss of fronds and thalli. The estimated global average rate of detrital production by kelps is 706 g C m−2 yr−1, accounting for 82% of annual kelp productivity. Detrital production rates are regulated by current and wave-driven hydrodynamic forces and are highest during severe storms and following blade weakening through damage by grazers and encrusting epibionts. Detritus settles within kelp beds or forests and is exported to neighboring or distant habitats, including sandy beaches, rocky intertidal shores, rocky and sedimentary subtidal areas, and the deep sea. Exported kelp detritus can provide a significant resource subsidy and enhance secondary production in these communities ranging from tens of meters to hundreds of kilometers from the source of production. Loss of kelp biomass is occurring worldwide through the combined effects of climate change, pollution, fishing, and harvesting of kelp, which can depress rates of detrital production and subsidy to adjacent communities, with large-scale consequences for productivity.

KEY WORDS: Kelp bed · Kelp forest · Connectivity · Detritus · Resource subsidy · Local-regional productivity

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Cite this article as: Krumhansl KA, Scheibling RE (2012) Production and fate of kelp detritus. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 467:281-302

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