Destruction of kelp-beds by sea-urchins: A cyclical phenomenon or irreversible degradation?
- Cite this article as:
- Mann, K.H. Helgolander Wiss. Meeresunters (1977) 30: 455. doi:10.1007/BF02207854
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A stable kelp bed ecosystem in St. Margaret's Bay, Nova Scotia (Canada), had as its main producersLaminaria longicruris andL. digita. Most algal production was exported as detritus, but there was a moderate population of herbivores, mainly the sea urchinsStrongylocentrotus droebachiensis. These were eaten by crabs,Cancer irroratus and by lobsters,Homarus americanus. Lobsters also preyed on crabs. Beginning in 1968, sea urchins became locally abundant and overgrazed the kelp beds, converting large areas to urchindominated barren grounds. Almost all kelp beds in St. Margaret's Bay (140 km2) have now been destroyed. During the same period, lobster biomass decreased, and the hypothesis was put forward that reduction in lobster predation led to increased urchin abundance and kelp bed destruction. Evidence is presented for the hypothesis that urchin-dominated barren grounds are a new, stable configuration of the ecosystem, and that a long-term decrease in primary and secondary productivity of these coastal waters can be expected.