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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 657:59-71 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13550

Mechanisms leading to recruitment inhibition of giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera by an understory alga

B. A. Beckley*, M. S. Edwards

Department of Biology, San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile Dr. San Diego, CA 92182, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The forest-forming giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera and the communities it supports have been decreasing across their native ranges in many parts of the world. The sudden removal of giant kelp canopies by storms increases space and light for the colonization by understory macroalgae, such as Desmarestia herbacea, which can inhibit M. pyrifera recovery and alter local community composition. Understanding the mechanisms by which algae such as D. herbacea interact with M. pyrifera can provide insight into patterns of kelp forest recovery following these disturbances and can aid in predicting future community structure. This study experimentally tested the independent and combined effects of two likely competitive mechanisms by which D. herbacea might inhibit recovery of M. pyrifera in the Point Loma kelp forest in San Diego, California (USA). Specifically, we conducted field experiments to study the individual and combined effects of shade and scour by D. herbacea on the survival of M. pyrifera microscopic life stages, and the recruitment, survival, and growth of its young sporophytes. Our results show that scour had the strongest negative effect on the survival of M. pyrifera microscopic life stages and recruitment, but shade and scour both adversely affected survival and growth of these sporophytes as they grew larger. Canopy-removing storms are increasing in frequency and intensity, and this change could facilitate the rise of understory species, like D. herbacea, which might alter community succession and recovery of kelp forests.


KEY WORDS: Community structure · Competition · Disturbance · Foundation species · Kelp forest · Macrocystis · Scour · Shade


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Cite this article as: Beckley BA, Edwards MS (2021) Mechanisms leading to recruitment inhibition of giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera by an understory alga. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 657:59-71. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13550

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