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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 495:299-307 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10513

AS WE SEE IT
What are algal turfs? Towards a better description of turfs

S. D. Connell1, M. S. Foster2, L. Airoldi3,4 

1Southern Seas Ecology Laboratories DX 650 418, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia
2Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, 8272 Moss Landing Road, Moss Landing, California 95039, USA
3Dipartimento di Scienze Biologiche, Geologiche ed Ambientali, University of Bologna, Via S. Alberto, 163, 48123 Ravenna, Italy
4Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University, Pacific Grove, California 93950, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The use of standardised classifications, or operational definitions, is essential if different researchers are to measure and compare similar entities. In the marine realm, algal ‘turfs’ are increasingly reported to be globally expanding at the expense of kelps and canopy-forming algae. However, ecological research about the underlying drivers of this shift is limited by a vague and inconsistent definition of what exactly a turf is. In order to stimulate more effective descriptions of ‘turfs’ and facilitate communication of research outcomes and comparisons across studies, we reviewed the use of the term turf in ecological studies of temperate coasts and coral reefs and (1) identified the main types and distribution of algal assemblages known as ‘turfs’, (2) examined the descriptions of turfs so that we may recognise some general characteristics, including those contingent on environmental conditions; and (3) offered character descriptions that could improve communication and comparisons. These descriptors centre on reporting information on the morphology, height, density of thalli, the amount of sediment trapped in turfs and a description of the area covered by turfs, including their patchiness and persistence. Our review recognised these as common attributes that could be usefully described across a wide range of circumstances and provide insights into the ecology of turfs and their interactions with other assemblages in a community. The use of common descriptors would provide the term ‘turf’ with greater scientific value.


KEY WORDS: Algae · Coral · Definition · Epilithic · Rock · Temperate · Turf-forming


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Cite this article as: Connell SD, Foster MS, Airoldi L (2014) What are algal turfs? Towards a better description of turfs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 495:299-307. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10513

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