Examining the influence of regional-scale variability in temperature and light availability on the depth distribution of subtidal kelp forests

Smith, KE; Moore, PJ; King, NG; Smale, DA. 2021 Examining the influence of regional-scale variability in temperature and light availability on the depth distribution of subtidal kelp forests. Limnology and Oceanography. https://doi.org/10.1002/lno.11994

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10.1002/lno.11994
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Abstract/Summary

Foundation species play a disproportionate role in maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Improved understanding of how environmental factors influence the distribution and population structure of foundation species therefore contributes to management and conservation of entire ecosystems. We surveyed subtidal kelp forests within four regions of the U.K., distributed over 9° of latitude and a mean sea temperature gradient of ~ 2.5°C. Our aims were: (1) to examine relationships between light availability and the structure and depth distribution of Laminaria hyperborea populations and (2) to determine whether depth-related patterns were consistent across regions with different temperature regimes. We recorded marked depth-related shifts in structure with decreasing light levels strongly correlated with declines in kelp density, cover, plant biomass, standing biomass, plant length, and age. We also recorded an effect of latitude; populations at our two colder, northernmost regions exhibited greater wet weight and length and higher standing biomass than populations in the warmer southern regions when under similar or even reduced light conditions, indicating an interactive effect of latitude, most likely related to temperature variability. We show that shifts in kelp population structure along depth gradients are strongly driven by light availability, although regional variability in the strength and nature of these relationships may be promoted by other factors such as temperature. Maximum depth penetration, standing biomass, plant density, and plant weight are useful indicators of light availability and, over time, could be monitored to detect changes in the quality of the overlying water column.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Subjects: Ecology and Environment
Marine Sciences
Oceanography
Divisions: Marine Biological Association of the UK > Knowledge Exchange
Depositing User: Tamar Atkinson
Date made live: 09 Feb 2022 14:38
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2022 14:38
URI: http://plymsea.ac.uk/id/eprint/9549

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