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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 166:151-161 (1998)  -  doi:10.3354/meps166151

Mechanisms underlying the effect of the chiton Katharina tunicata on the kelp Hedophyllum sessile: size escapes and indirect effects

Russell W. Markel1,2, Robert E. DeWreede1,2,*

1Department of Botany, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada 2Bamfield Marine Station, Bamfield, British Columbia VOR 1BO, Canada
*Addressee for correspondence. E-mail:

We monitored the population size-structure and demography of the intertidal kelp Hedophyllum sessile (C. Agardh) Setchell in areas of manipulated chiton Katharina tunicata (Wood) density to examine size-related 'escapes' and other mechanisms which may underlie the effects of this herbivore on H. sessile. This research was done on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. We find that K. tunicata is associated with decreased juvenile H. sessile (<1 cm holdfast diameter) survivorship. While young adults of H. sessile (1-4 cm holdfast diameter) were found to survive significantly longer than juveniles between areas of low, control and high chiton density, adult (>4 cm holdfast diameter) survivorship did not differ among the density treatments. We argue that the mechanism underlying the effect of K. tunicata on young adult H. sessile survivorship is an indirect inter-action wherein holdfast integrity is degraded, resulting in an increased susceptibility to wave-induced mortality. These findings provide a quantification of the mechanism of macrophyte size-escapes, may explain the geographically variable effects of K. tunicata and hold implications for studies which aim to assess the effects of wave exposure on macrophyte survivorship.

Kelp population dynamics · Herbivore density · Mechanisms · Size escapes · Interaction modification · Wave-induced mortality

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