Inter-Research > MEPS > v509 > p127-136  
Marine Ecology Progress Series

via Mailchimp

MEPS 509:127-136 (2014)  -  DOI:

Celestial mechanics affects emersion time and cover patterns of an ecosystem engineer, the intertidal kelp Saccharina sessilis

Jennifer L. Burnaford1,*, Karina J. Nielsen2, Susan L. Williams3

1Department of Biological Sciences, California State University Fullerton, PO Box 6850, Fullerton, CA 92834-6850, USA
2Department of Biology, Sonoma State University, 1801 East Cotati Avenue, Rohnert Park, CA 94928-3609, USA
3Bodega Marine Laboratory, University of California—Davis, 2099 Westside Road, Bodega Bay, CA 94923-0247, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Understanding the factors that control the performance and abundance of important community members such as ecosystem engineers is critical for understanding ecosystem dynamics in a changing climate. Oscillation of the moon’s declination over 18.6 yr periods directly affects emersion time in intertidal systems. Here we document the direct influence of this predictable emersion time cycle on the cover of the dominant intertidal kelp and ecosystem engineer Saccharina sessilis. Field surveys over 14 yr showed large changes in the kelp canopy (between a maximum of 84% and a minimum of 21% cover) that were tightly linked to changes in annual emersion time. In laboratory experiments, we found evidence of a mechanistic link between emersion and S. sessilis canopy cover, as even short exposure to realistic low-tide conditions reduced physiological performance and caused substantial biomass loss. Our field data show a strong negative relationship between annual emersion time and kelp canopy cover. The emersion time cycle had cascading effects on the community, as shown by a strong positive correlation between kelp canopy cover and the abundance of the chiton Katharina tunicata, a major herbivore that depends on the canopy for shade. Recognizing the effects of natural, decadal-scale cycles on habitat-modifying species is an especially important step in achieving an understanding of the ecological consequences of climate change.

KEY WORDS:  Celestial mechanics · Ecosystem engineer · Emersion time · Habitat modification · Kelp · Maximum quantum yield · Rocky intertidal zone · Sub-lethal stress

Full text in pdf format
Supplementary material
Cite this article as: Burnaford JL, Nielsen KJ, Williams SL (2014) Celestial mechanics affects emersion time and cover patterns of an ecosystem engineer, the intertidal kelp Saccharina sessilis. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 509:127-136.

Export citation
Share:    Facebook - - linkedIn

 Previous article Next article