Marine Biology

, Volume 144, Issue 2, pp 361–368 | Cite as

Local complexity in patterns of canopy–benthos associations produces regional patterns across temperate Australasia

  • A. D. IrvingEmail author
  • S. D. Connell
  • B. M. Gillanders
Research Article


Across subtidal coasts of temperate Australasia, canopy–benthos associations are mostly understood from broadly defined studies of kelp forests within eastern Australia and north-eastern New Zealand. We tested the hypotheses that (1) benthic assemblages differ between monospecific stands of Ecklonia radiata and stands that comprise E. radiata mixed with other canopy-forming species, (2) patterns observed locally (i.e. within sites 1–10 km apart) match those observed among regions (>1,000 km apart) for which (3) eastern Australia and northern New Zealand are representative of other regions of temperate Australasia. Benthic assemblages almost always differed among monospecific, mixed, and open stands indicating that failure to distinguish between superficially similar habitats can lead to over-generalised conclusions about the ecology of kelp forests. Patterns of differences among stands did not change between western and southern Australia but differed from eastern Australia, and patterns from all regions were distinct from New Zealand (WA=SA≠EA≠NZ). Whilst local patterns were complex, the major morphological groups that often characterise benthos (i.e. encrusting coralline algae and turf-forming algae) revealed patterns that could be related across space from local to regional scales. These findings demonstrate that knowledge about the configuration of canopy-forming species will improve confidence about the representativeness of results and that any local complexity need not impede searches for generality when the spatial limits of patterns are also understood.


Mixed Stand Western Australia Kelp Forest Morphological Group Benthic Assemblage 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work could not have been completed without dedicated support from T. Elsdon, M. Fowler-Walker, P. Goodsell, and E. Vytopil. The kind hospitality of numerous inhabitants of temperate Australia's coastal towns is greatly appreciated. We thank M.J. Anderson for use of her NP-MANOVA software and our gratitude is also extended to the staff and students of the Leigh Marine Laboratory who made our stay an enjoyable one. This work was supported by a University of Adelaide scholarship to ADI and an Australian Research Council Discovery grant to SDC and BMG.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. D. Irving
    • 1
    Email author
  • S. D. Connell
    • 1
  • B. M. Gillanders
    • 1
  1. 1.Southern Seas Ecology Laboratories, School of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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