Marine Biology

, 164:74 | Cite as

Phenolic concentrations of brown seaweeds and relationships to nearshore environmental gradients in Western Australia

  • Daniel H. van HeesEmail author
  • Ylva S. Olsen
  • Thomas Wernberg
  • Kathryn L. Van Alstyne
  • Gary A. Kendrick
Original Paper


Phenolic compounds are found in all brown macroalgae and function as cell wall structure, UV protection and as herbivore deterrents. The concentrations of phenolic compounds vary among taxa and between temperate and tropical ecosystems. Australasia has high concentrations of soluble phenolics compared to other regions. Presently, relationships between phenolic concentrations and environmental gradients are unclear. The purpose of this study was to determine the soluble phenolic concentrations of brown seaweeds along temperate and tropical ecosystems of the Western Australia coastline. We tested the hypothesis that phenolic concentrations are related to local and broad-scale abiotic environmental gradients. Strong environmental gradients of coastal Western Australia provided the opportunity to characterize phenolic compounds across one large gradient. Phenolic concentrations of brown seaweeds at seven study locations varied across latitude with higher concentrations found at higher latitudes and were comparable to seaweeds from similar latitudes in Australia. This trend coincided with a negative relationship between photosynthetically active radiation and phenolic compounds, and a positive relationship with salinity. We also found phenolic concentrations were positively related to salinity in tropical Shark Bay but this was dependent on species. Environmental conditions are important in regulating concentrations of phenolic compounds. Multiple factors influence the concentrations of macroalgal phenolic compounds creating unique distributions among geographical regions. This study highlighted the importance of considering multiple factors when studying phenolic ecology and suggests photosynthetically active radiation and salinity as important drivers of phenolic compound distribution in Western Australia.


Latitudinal gradient Macroalgae Photosynthetically active radiation Polyphenolics Salinity 



This study was carried out as part of the PhD thesis research of the first author at the University of Western Australia. We thank C. Tuckett, E. Gates, D. Bearham, R. McCallum, K. van Hees for their help with field logistics and sample collection, L. Mattio for help with species identification, M. Considine and G. Cawthray for assistance in laboratory analyses and the anonymous reviewers that helped improve this manuscript. Cygnet Bay sampling was funded by the Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) Kimberley Marine Research Program (Project 2.2.4 to G.A.K), and supported by the Bardi Jawi Ranger program. Jurien Bay and Port Gregory sampling was supported by funding from the University of Western Australia, The Hermon Slade Foundation and the Australian Research Council awarded to T.W. An NHT-II Caring for our Country grant coordinated by WAMSI awarded to G.A.K supported sampling in Shark Bay. A University of Western Australia Postgraduate Student Research Grant awarded to D.H.vH funded laboratory analyses.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Daniel H van Hees declares that he has no conflict of interest. Ylva S Olsen declares that she has no conflict of interest. Thomas Wernberg declares that he has no conflict of interest. Kathryn L Van Alstyne declares that she has no conflict of interest. Gary A Kendrick declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Author contributions

D.H.vH and G.A.K conceived of the ideas; D.H.vH collected the data; D.H.vH and K.V.A ran the laboratory analyses; D.H.vH, K.L.V.A, Y.O, T.W and G.A.K analysed the data; D.H.vH led the writing of the manuscript with contributions from G.A.K, K.L.V.A., T.W., and Y.S.O.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel H. van Hees
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Ylva S. Olsen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Thomas Wernberg
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kathryn L. Van Alstyne
    • 3
  • Gary A. Kendrick
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.The Oceans InstituteUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  3. 3.Shannon Point Marine LaboratoryWestern Washington UniversityAnacortesUSA

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