Journal of Applied Phycology

, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 2267–2275 | Cite as

Population biology and long-term mariculture studies in the brown alga Lessonia trabeculata in Atacama, Chile

  • Renato Westermeier
  • Pedro Murúa
  • David J. Patiño
  • Dieter G. Müller


Lessonia trabeculata is one of the most valuable seaweeds in Chile, especially in the northern zone where its harvest has been going on for decades. We carried out population dynamics studies in the Atacama Desert coast (Bahia Chasco), in order to assess its productivity under natural and harvesting scenarios. We found very slow but consistent growth (1.98 cm month−1) and density (3–4 individuals m−2 with no monthly variation) during 18 months of observations in an undisturbed subpopulation. However, after total harvesting, L. trabeculata exhibited different responses. Its recruitment was season-specific, with exceedingly high values in autumn (ca. 80 individuals m−2 in 5 months) and a dramatic reduction of recruits in summer (1–5 individuals m−2 in 7 months, with many areas with no recruitment). Gradually, density values tended to stabilize to growth rates under un-altered conditions. In parallel, pruning systems at three different thallus levels (frond meristem base cuts, removal of half and total canopy) were all inefficient and harmful: (i) Biomass takes longer to be harvested; (ii) pruned individuals die off; and (iii) do not detach easily from the substrata, delaying the recovery by potentially emerging L. trabeculata juveniles. Some of these results agreed with our culture experiments, where 26 months were needed to obtain up to 100 cm long thalli with shrub-like morphology. We conclude that management of L. trabeculata beds must be improved in order to guarantee survival of the industry, and we propose some practices that at some stage should involve the complete removal of older/senescent individuals.


Lessonia trabeculata Huiro palo Population dynamic Kelp aquaculture Wild harvest Pruning Sustainable management 



Laboratory and field support by L. Muñoz, C. Atero and C. Soza and the logistic help by E. Canto (Hidrocultivos S.A., Bahia Inglesa) and local fishermen (Bahia Chasco) are acknowledged. The valuable feedback from two anonymous reviewers helped to improve the latest version of the manuscript. The authors also thank to the projects 33-91-243 (FIC Atacama 2013) and 09PDAC- 6896 (CORFO), granted to the Universidad Austral de Chile (RW). PM is currently funded by Conicyt (Becas Chile N° 72130422) for PhD studies at the University of Aberdeen.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Renato Westermeier
    • 1
  • Pedro Murúa
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • David J. Patiño
    • 1
  • Dieter G. Müller
    • 4
  1. 1.Instituto de AcuiculturaUniversidad Austral de Chile, Sede Puerto MonttPuerto MonttChile
  2. 2.Oceanlab, University of AberdeenNewburghUK
  3. 3.The Scottish Association for Marine ScienceScottish Marine Institute, Culture Collection for Algae and ProtozoaArgyllUK
  4. 4.Fachbereich Biologie der Universität KonstanzKonstanzGermany

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