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Marine Biology

, Volume 156, Issue 4, pp 555–567 | Cite as

Seasonal stresses shift optimal intertidal algal habitats

  • Megan N. DethierEmail author
  • Susan L. Williams
Original Paper

Abstract

We studied how the growth, reproduction, and survival of a common intertidal rockweed (Fucus distichus) varied across its tidal elevation at 14 sites around San Juan Island, Washington, USA in spring–summer and fall-winter seasons. We also measured a suite of environmental factors including temperature, light, emersion time, slope, fetch, and herbivory. To interpret the response of Fucus we included measurements of phlorotannins and carbon storage compounds (mannitol, laminarin). Growth and reproduction exhibited parallel patterns across tidal zones and sites. Tidal zone was a significant source of variation for many Fucus response variables, whereas variation between sites was high but not generally a significant factor explaining Fucus growth and physiology. Unexpectedly, the tidal zone in which Fucus achieved its highest growth and reproduction switched between seasons. High zone thalli grew and reproduced better than Mid zone thalli in fall but not in spring. This result can be explained by different combinations of factors influencing Fucus in each season. In spring, longer emersion times due to daytime low tides resulted in lower growth rates higher on the shore, likely due to carbon limitation. In fall during nighttime low tides, emersion and carbon limitation stresses were minimal. Overall, fall growth was lower than spring growth, but low fall light was not responsible. Instead, warmer average fall temperatures in the High zone apparently favored growth and reproduction relative to the Mid zone. In contrast, Mid zone thalli were subjected to more intense herbivory and hydrodynamic stress associated with wave exposure and steep substrata during the fall. At least for some seaweeds, living in the presumably more stressful high zone can actually confer higher integrated performance.

Keywords

Tidal Height Wave Exposure Tidal Elevation High Zone Phlorotannin Content 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Many folks worked very hard to gather and help analyze these data, including during wretched night tides, especially A. Freeman, the Marvelous Megans (M. Ferguson and M. Johnson), C. Catton, and D. and P. Duggins. We thank the following: Director and staff of the Friday Harbor Laboratories (consistently wonderful support), numerous property owners on San Juan Island (access to their shorelines), Dr. Julia Kubanek (walking SLW through the phlorotannin purification), Dr. William Fenical (use of his laboratory), Drs. Nancy Targett and Tom Arnold (general phlorotannin advice), Claire Dominic and Albert Carranza (mannitol, laminarin extractions), Carissa Haug (nitrate data), Dr. Neil Willits (statistical consultations, multivariate data analyses), and Drs. Cynthia Hays and Matthew Bracken (comments on the manuscript). This research was funded by NSF grants #OCE 9901138, 98196078, and 0196078. Experiments comply with current laws of the country in which the experiments were performed. Contribution #2441 from the Bodega Marine Laboratory, University of California-Davis.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology and Friday Harbor LabsUniversity of WashingtonFriday HarborUSA
  2. 2.Bodega Marine LaboratoryUniversity of California at DavisBodega BayUSA

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