, Volume 146, Issue 6, pp 1051-1062
Date: 08 Jan 2005

Demographic variation in the kelp Laminaria hyperborea along a latitudinal gradient

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We compared populations of Laminaria hyperborea from different regions along the Norwegian coast (58–71°N). The aim of the study was to examine possible regional differences in population demography and to relate these to latitudinal gradients in ambient temperature and light. A number of population parameters were examined in understory and canopy kelp individuals. We found latitudinal differences in stipe growth rate and growth pattern, mortality, longevity, recruitment and density. Stipe growth rate was higher for young individuals in mid-Norway than in south and north Norway. Mean stipe length was related to temperature and light, and correlated significantly with indices combining temperature during the growth season and daylength in summer. Mortality decreased and longevity increased with increasing latitude, probably because of a temperature decrease with increasing latitude and a general reduction in metabolic rate. Greater longevity may also cause the observed decrease in recruitment rate with increasing latitude, since there are fewer opportunities for understory individuals to replace dead canopy individuals. The development of particularly large kelp in mid-Norway appears to be explained by high growth rates and not a particularly long life span, as earlier assumed. This has consequences for decisions of the optimal harvesting regime for the species in the region, with regard to yield and maintenance of associated biodiversity.

Communicated by M. Kühl, Helsingør