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Sea wrack delivery and accumulation on islands: factors that mediate marine nutrient permeability

Sara B. Wickham*, Nancy Shackelford, Chris T. Darimont, Wiebe Nijland, Luba Y. Reshitnyk, John D. Reynolds, Brian M. Starzomski

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Sea wrack provides an important vector of marine-derived nutrients to many terrestrial environments. However, little is known about the processes that facilitate wrack transport, deposition, and accumulation on islands. Three broad factors can affect the stock of wrack along shorelines: the amount of potential donor habitat nearby, climatic events that dislodge seaweeds and transfer them ashore, and physical characteristics of shorelines that retain wrack at a site. To determine when, where, and how wrack accumulates on island shorelines, we surveyed 455 sites across 101 islands in coastal British Columbia, Canada. At each site, we recorded wrack biomass, species composition, and shoreline biogeographical characteristics. Additionally, over a period of 9 months, we visited a smaller selection of sites (n = 3) on a bi-monthly basis to document temporal changes in wrack biomass and species composition. Dominant wrack species were Zostera marina, Fucus distichus, Macrocystis pyrifera, Nereocystis luetkeana, Pterygophora californica, and Phyllospadix spp. The amount of donor habitat positively affected the presence of accumulated biomass of sea wrack, whereas rocky substrates and shoreline slope negatively affected the presence of sea wrack biomass. Biomass was higher during winter months, and species diversity was higher during summer months. These results suggest that shorelines with specific characteristics have the capacity to accumulate wrack, thereby facilitating the transfer of marine-derived nutrients to the terrestrial environment.