Spatially variable synergistic effects of disturbance and additional nutrients on kelp recruitment and recovery
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Understanding the impact of multiple stressors on ecosystems is of pronounced importance, particularly when one or more of those stressors is anthropogenic. Here we investigated the role of physical disturbance and increased nutrients on reefs dominated by the canopy-forming kelp Ecklonia radiata. We combined experimental kelp canopy removals and additional nutrient at three different locations in a large embayment in temperate southeastern Australia. Over the following winter recruitment season, Ecklonia recruitment was unaffected by increased nutrients alone, but tripled at all sites where the canopy had been removed. At one site, the combination of disturbance and increased nutrients resulted in more than four times the recruitment of the introduced kelp Undaria pinnatifida. Six months after disturbance, the proliferation of the Undaria canopy in the canopy-removal and nutrient-addition treatment negatively influenced the recovery of the native kelp Ecklonia. Given the otherwise competitive dominance of adult Ecklonia, this provides a mechanism whereby Undaria could maintain open space for the following recruitment season. This interplay between disturbance, nutrients and the response of native and invasive species makes a compelling case for how a combination of factors can influence species dynamics.
KeywordsMultiple stressors Invasive species Resilience Ecklonia radiata Undaria pinnatifida
We thank R. Saaristo, P. Crockett, P. Gilmour, C. Jung, R. Chisholm, C. Taylor, H. Wooton and B. Hull for their invaluable field assistance. We also thank K. Mossop, A. O’Brien and three anonymous reviewers for comments that greatly improved the manuscript. This study was funded by an Australian Research Council Grant to M. J. K., a Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment to P. E. C., the Jasper Loftus-Hills award to P. E. C. and an Australian Postgraduate Award to P. E. C.
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