MEPS 542:79-95 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11544

Linking environmental variables with regional-scale variability in ecological structure and standing stock of carbon within UK kelp forests

Dan A. Smale1,*, Michael T. Burrows2, Ally J. Evans3, Nathan King3, Martin D. J. Sayer2,4, Anna L. E. Yunnie5, Pippa J. Moore3,6 

1Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, UK
2Scottish Association for Marine Science, Dunbeg, Oban, Argyll PA37 1QA, UK
3Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth SY23 3DA, UK
4NERC National Facility for Scientific Diving, Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory Oban, Argyll PA37 1QA 5PML Applications Ltd, Prospect Place, Plymouth PL1 3DH, UK
6Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research, School of Natural Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup 6027, Western Australia, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Kelp forests represent some of the most productive and diverse habitats on Earth. Understanding drivers of ecological patterns at large spatial scales is critical for effective management and conservation of marine habitats. We surveyed kelp forests dominated by Laminaria hyperborea (Gunnerus) Foslie 1884 across 9° latitude and >1000 km of coastline and measured a number of physical parameters at multiple scales to link ecological structure and standing stock of carbon with environmental variables. Kelp density, biomass, morphology and age were generally greater in exposed sites within regions, highlighting the importance of wave exposure in structuring L. hyperborea populations. At the regional scale, wave-exposed kelp canopies in the cooler regions (the north and west of Scotland) were greater in biomass, height and age than in warmer regions (southwest Wales and England). The range and maximal values of estimated standing stock of carbon contained within kelp forests was greater than in historical studies, suggesting that this ecosystem property may have been previously undervalued. Kelp canopy density was positively correlated with large-scale wave fetch and fine-scale water motion, whereas kelp canopy biomass and the standing stock of carbon were positively correlated with large-scale wave fetch and light levels and negatively correlated with temperature. As light availability and summer temperature were important drivers of kelp forest biomass, effective management of human activities that may affect coastal water quality is necessary to maintain ecosystem functioning, while increased temperatures related to anthropogenic climate change may impact the structure of kelp forests and the ecosystem services they provide.


KEY WORDS: Blue carbon · Coastal management · Laminaria hyperborea · Macroalgae · Marine ecosystems · Primary productivity · Subtidal rocky habitats · Temperate reefs


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Cite this article as: Smale DA, Burrows MT, Evans AJ, King N, Sayer MDJ, Yunnie ALE, Moore PJ (2016) Linking environmental variables with regional-scale variability in ecological structure and standing stock of carbon within UK kelp forests. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 542:79-95. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11544

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