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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 421:67-82 (2011)  -  DOI:

Detrital production in Nova Scotian kelp beds: patterns and processes

Kira A. Krumhansl1,*, Robert E. Scheibling1

1Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4J1, Canada

ABSTRACT: Connectivity via the transport of detrital material from areas of high to low productivity may be an important determinant of secondary productivity and biodiversity in receiving communities. On the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, detritus exported from subtidal kelp beds contributes to food webs in communities inhabiting deeper waters offshore. To estimate the amount of energy available via this pathway, we measured rates of detrital production via erosion of kelp blades in kelp beds at 5 sites varying in wave exposure. Specifically, we measured productivity and erosion of the 2 dominant species of kelp, Laminaria digitata and Saccharina longicruris, over 16 mo. We also examined the effect of environmental and biological factors on erosion rates, including temperature, wave exposure, grazing by snails and cover by the invasive bryozoan Membranipora membranacea. We observed clear seasonal and spatial patterns in productivity, with the highest production in spring. Erosion rate was highly variable across sites and seasons, and was strongly related to the cover of M. membranacea and the intensity of snail grazing at the distal end of kelp blades. Both factors cause tissue degradation, abrasions and perforations that weaken blades. Erosion rate was also positively related to water temperature and site exposure. Annual detrital production from the erosion of kelp blades increased linearly with kelp bed biomass, and ranged from 0.5 to 1.71 kg dry weight m–2 (150–513 g C m–2) across sites. These rates equal or exceed annual phytoplankton production off the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia and estimates of detrital production in seagrass beds in North America.

KEY WORDS: Detritus · Grazing · Invasive species · Kelp bed · Laminaria digitata · Membranipora membranacea · Productivity · Saccharina longicruris

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Cite this article as: Krumhansl KA, Scheibling RE (2011) Detrital production in Nova Scotian kelp beds: patterns and processes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 421:67-82.

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