Modulation of different kelp life stages by herbivory: compensatory growth versus population decimation
Partitioning the effects of herbivory on different life stages of primary producers is key to understanding the population-wide consequences of herbivory. We assessed the performance of microscopic (MiS <1 mm) juveniles, macroscopic (MaS) juveniles and adult kelp (Laminaria ochroleuca) under contrasting herbivory regimes through a herbivore exclusion field experiment. The abundance of MiS and the survival of MaS decreased by 67 and 63%, respectively, when herbivorous fishes and sea urchins were present. Blade growth (linear and area) of adult kelp displayed contrasting patterns under herbivore pressure: a 60% increase and a 46% decrease, respectively. These results indicate that while herbivory severely reduces juvenile survival, it may also induce compensatory growth (measured as linear growth) in adult kelp. In summary, we here demonstrate how herbivory affects all sporophyte life stages of the kelp L. ochroleuca. This is likely to have important implications for situations where historical patterns of herbivore presence and herbivory are changing, such as is increasingly the case in many temperate regions due to warming around the world.
Financial support was provided by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the ‘Programa Operacional Factores de Competitividade’ (POFC-COMPETE) within the ‘Quadro de Referência Estratégico Nacional (QREN)’ and the Portuguese Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) through the project ‘Efeitos do clima oceânico na macroecologia e resiliência a perturbações dos povoamentos de kelps’—OCEANKELP (PTDC/MAR/109954/2009); and the strategic project UID/MAR/04292/2013 Granted to MARE. João N. Franco was supported by a FCT PhD Grant (SFRH/BD/84933/2012). Thomas Wernberg was supported by Grants from the Australian Research Council (FT110100174, DP170100023). We are very grateful to Nuno Vasco Rodrigues, ESTM-IPLEIRA volunteers and Haliotis and AquaSubOeste Diving centres for their valuable help during experimental set-up and maintenance.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This study was funded by Portuguese Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) through the projects: OCEANKELP (PTDC/MAR/109954/2009), UID/MAR/04292/2013 and a PhD Grant (SFRH/BD/84933/2012) and the Australian Research Council (FT110100174, DP170100023).
This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.
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