Marine Biology

, Volume 147, Issue 2, pp 551–558 | Cite as

Nutrients increase epiphyte loads: broad-scale observations and an experimental assessment

  • Bayden D. RussellEmail author
  • Travis S. Elsdon
  • Bronwyn M. Gillanders
  • Sean D. Connell
Research Article


There is a global trend towards elevated nutrients in coastal waters, especially on human-dominated coasts. We assessed local- to regional-scale relationships between the abundance of epiphytic algae on kelp (Ecklonia radiata) and nutrient concentrations across much of the temperate coast of Australia, thus assessing the spatial scales over which nutrients may affect benthic assemblages. We tested the hypotheses that (1) percentage cover of epiphytic algae would be greater in areas with higher water nutrient concentrations, and (2) that an experimental enhancement of nutrient concentrations on an oligotrophic coast, to match more eutrophic coasts, would cause an increase in percentage cover of epiphytic algae to match those in more nutrient rich waters. Percentage cover of epiphytes was most extensive around the coast of Sydney, the study location with the greatest concentration of coastal chlorophyll a (a proxy for water nutrient concentration). Elevation of nitrate concentrations at a South Australian location caused an increase in percentage cover of epiphytes that was comparable to percentage covers observed around Sydney’s coastline. This result was achieved despite our inability to match nutrient concentrations observed around Sydney (<5% of Sydney concentrations), suggesting that increases to nutrient concentrations may have disproportionately larger effects in oligotrophic waters.


Nutrient Concentration Percentage Cover Western Australia Epiphytic Alga Elevated Nutrient 
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.



We thank Paris Goodsell and Meegan Fowler-Walker for collection of Ecklonia radiata samples across southern Australia. The experimental work would not have been possible without the help of Andrew Irving. This project was supported by Australian Postgraduate Awards to BDR and TSE, an Australian Research Council QEII Fellowship to BMG, and an Australian Research Council Discovery grant to SDC and BMG.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bayden D. Russell
    • 1
    Email author
  • Travis S. Elsdon
    • 1
  • Bronwyn M. Gillanders
    • 1
  • Sean D. Connell
    • 1
  1. 1.Southern Seas Ecology Laboratories, DP418, School of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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