Community development on subtidal temperate reefs: the influences of wave energy and the stochastic recruitment of a dominant kelp
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Patterns of community development on subtidal rocky reefs in Marmion Lagoon, southwest Australia, were investigated with a settlement panel experiment. We tested the hypothesis that community development would differ between outer and inner reefs lines, because exposure to swell and wave energy was significantly greater on outer reefs. Following a 14-month deployment, we recorded pronounced variability between panels and sites, but did not detect any effect of wave exposure on the structure of panel assemblages. Subsequent data exploration suggested the importance of the presence of kelp recruits (Ecklonia radiata) in structuring the overall assemblage. Panel assemblages with kelp recruits were significantly different in structure to those without, principally because of greater space coverage of encrusting coralline algae and less coverage of red turfing algae, spirorbids, and bryozoans. Mature E. radiata act as ecosystem engineers in subtidal rocky reefs in southwest Australia. Our results suggested the importance of young, recruiting kelps in determining patterns of early community development on newly available hard substrata.
KeywordsMacroalgae Assemblage Structure Wave Exposure Limestone Reef Macroalgal Assemblage
We thank Thibaut de Bettignies, Renae Hovey, Samantha Childs, and Adam Gartner for assistance in the field, and Gary Kendrick and Tim Langlois for insightful discussion and comments on earlier drafts of the paper. DS is funded by the Western Australian Marine Science Institute (WAMSI). Fieldwork was supported by an ARC Discovery Project grant to TW.
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