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Experimental analyses of diversity partitioning in southern hemisphere algal communities

  • David R. SchielEmail author
Community ecology – original research


Understanding how biodiversity and its components of alpha, beta, and gamma vary over spatial and temporal scales and across communities is crucial to mitigating stressors of ecosystems. Marine communities present several problems in partitioning diversity over fine spatial scales, such as tidal zones, and temporal scales relating to seasonal occurrences of species and recovery responses to impacts. This study uses an experimental approach to test disturbance effects on beta diversity in algal communities in southern New Zealand. Dominant canopies in mid-shore Hormosira banksii and low-shore Durvillaea poha communities were removed and diversity metrics assessed, including additive partitioning, permutational dispersion, and nestedness and turnover analyses. Over 2 years, 258 species were found. Species richness was greater where canopies remained intact in Hormosira communities compared to removal plots, but, in Durvillaea communities, controls and removals had similar richness. In both communities, β-diversity was 1.5–3.9 times greater than α-diversity, with the temporal component βt being 1.2–2.4 × greater than the spatial component. Hormosira communities exhibited high nestedness, with species in removal plots being a subset of those in controls. In Durvillaea communities, however, turnover was high and nestedness low, because removal plots had a different species assemblage than controls. Multivariate analyses showed that species occurrences and abundances remained different in controls and removals in both communities over 2 years. Differences in diversity components between communities were related to environmental differences to which they are exposed, including desiccation and wave forces, and the relative importance of facilitation and competition in the different communities.


Marine Rocky reef Macroalgae Diversity Beta diversity Impact Algal canopy 



I thank Paul and Kerry South for help with field work, Stacie Lilley for help with analyses, and Prof. Jason Tylianakis, and Dr Mads Thomsen for critical comments on this paper. I gratefully acknowledge supportive funding from the Foundation of Research Science and Technology, MBIE, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (OBI funding), and the National Science Challenge Sustainable Seas Tipping Point project. Perceptive comments by the editor and reviewers were most helpful, and I thank them.

Author contribution statement

DRS conceived, designed, and executed this study and wrote the manuscript. No other person is entitled to authorship.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marine Ecology Research Group, School of Biological SciencesUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand

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