, Volume 192, Issue 1, pp 35–57 | Cite as

Patterns of organizations of intertidal and shallow subtidal vegetation in wave exposed habitats of central Chile

  • B. Santelices


Wave-exposed rocky intertidal habitats of central Chile exhibit zonation of algal morphologies rather than strict patterns of species zonation. In low shore areas, there is a vertical sequence of perennial belts of calcareous crusts, kelp-like forms and expanded cushions or non-calcareous crusts. The calcareous crusts are represented by species of Mesophyllum, the kelp-like forms include Lessonia nigrescens and Durvillaea antarctica, while the cushions are represented by Gelidium chilense and G. lingulatum and the noncalcareous, expanded crusts by Codium dimorphum. Thin and thick blades, represented by Iridaea laminarioides, Ulva rigida and Porphyra columbia and filamentous forms including Ceramium rubrum, Centroceras clavulatum and Polysiphonia spp. are more patchy than the lower, perennial belts. They may, however, form distinct temporal monocultures at upper intertidal levels. Upper and lower limits of the various zones are set by interactions of several factors, the relative importance of which can change seasonally. When some of the factors restricting species distribution are experimentally removed, other interactions among factors become limiting.

Within each zone, species are morphologically similar, with the abundance of species being regulated by symmetric competitive interactions. Competition is often asymmetric at the boundaries of zones except when adults of small-sized forms interact with morphologically similar juveniles of larger forms. Irrespective of their extremely different morphologies, the permanent, zone-forming algal species generally combine escape from grazers or defensive adaptations with clear competitive abilities. Nevertheless, there is a clear competitive hierarchy which is expressed in vertical displacements and zonation. The lowershore habitats could potentially be occupied by any of the different types of algae. Fast growth and large size allow the kelps to occupy this zone pushing the calcareous crust dominated-zone down into shallow subtidal areas and displacing the cushions and fleshy crusts into the low and middle intertidal regions. In turn, these last forms can displace thick and thin foliose forms and filaments to upper levels on the shore. Displaced forms may exist as patches at various levels of the shore.


Ulva Intertidal Level Calcareous Crust Defensive Adaptation Rocky Intertidal Habitat 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. Santelices
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de EcologiaP. Universidad Catolica de ChileSantiagoChile

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