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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 455:51-64 (2012)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09667

Hurricane-mediated defoliation of kelp beds and pulsed delivery of kelp detritus to offshore sedimentary habitats

Karen Filbee-Dexter*, Robert E. Scheibling

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

ABSTRACT: Severe storm events are important agents of disturbance that can transport large quantities of algal detritus from highly productive kelp beds (or forests) in shallow water to deeper, more food-limited areas. We measured canopy cover in shallow kelp beds (5 to 15 m depth) and the cover of detrital kelp in sedimentary habitats directly offshore of these beds (20 to 45 m) before and after Hurricane Earl, which struck the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia in September 2010. The storm resulted in large losses of kelp canopy cover (from 71.0 to 38.7%, averaged across sites) and significantly increased the cover of detrital kelp deposits below the kelp beds (from 1.5 to 3.4%). Detrital deposits were more commonly found in a semi-protected bay than off an exposed headland and persisted in the bay for at least 6 wk. Sea urchins Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis were associated with detrital kelp deposits in offshore habitats. At sites with the greatest amount of detrital kelp, we estimated that sea urchins could consume this material within 2 mo, indicating that storm-generated detrital pulses may be an important form of trophic connectivity between adjacent ecosystems off this coast.


KEY WORDS: Defoliation · Hurricane impacts · Kelp beds · Macroalgal detritus · Sea urchin grazing


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Cite this article as: Filbee-Dexter K, Scheibling RE (2012) Hurricane-mediated defoliation of kelp beds and pulsed delivery of kelp detritus to offshore sedimentary habitats. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 455:51-64. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09667

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