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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 417:27-38 (2010)  -  DOI:

Latitudinal and environmental patterns in abundance and composition of epilithic microphytobenthos

A. C. Jackson1,4,*, A. J. Underwood1, R. J. Murphy2, G. A. Skilleter3

1Centre for Research on Ecological Impacts of Coastal Cities, Marine Ecology Laboratories, A11, and
2Australian Centre for Field Robotics, The Rose Street Building J04, Department of Aerospace, Mechanical & Mechatronic  Engineering, University of Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia
3Marine and Estuarine Ecology Unit, School of Biological Sciences (Goddard Bldg), University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia
4Present address: Environmental Research Institute, Castle Street, Thurso, Caithness KW14 7JD, UK

ABSTRACT: Epilithic microphytobenthos (EMPB) is of core importance in intertidal assemblages and responds to a variety of environmental variables, including season, light, temperature and exposure to waves. To help understand responses by EMPB to these variables and their interactions, EMPB was compared at 2 different latitudes in eastern Australia. In subtropical Brisbane and temperate Sydney, EMPB was sampled at 4 different heights on shores exposed to, or sheltered from, waves during the austral winters and summers of 2006 to 2008. Trends of increasing biomass with decreasing height on shore supported previous studies. In particular, the interaction between season and height was similar to results of previous studies in Australia. There were no differences in biomass of standing stock between Sydney and Brisbane. Differences in timing of sampling occasions confounded some comparisons, and some observed patterns may be due to differences in rates of recolonisation among treatments. Spectrometric assessment of the composition of pigments in EMPB differed with latitude. Spectral samples were more similar to those from assemblages of cyanobacteria than to assemblages of green algae, and this was more marked in Sydney than in Brisbane. Amounts of chlorophyll a were greater on sheltered shores than on those exposed to waves. These patterns are not easily explained, but serve to illustrate the difficulties of extrapolating patterns and processes from one area to another. Variations in pattern at different heights on the shore and in different years emphasise the need for spatially and temporally extensive data in order to make reliable predictions about EMPB. Improved capacity to make reliable predictions will help us understand how EMPB may respond to our changing climate, which is forecast to be hotter with more frequent storms.

KEY WORDS: Geographic distribution · Micro-algae · Temperature · Diatoms · Cyanobacteria · Grazing · Climatic change

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Cite this article as: Jackson AC, Underwood AJ, Murphy RJ, Skilleter GA (2010) Latitudinal and environmental patterns in abundance and composition of epilithic microphytobenthos. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 417:27-38.

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