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Giant kelp (Macrocystis) fishery in Atacama (Northern Chile): biological basis for management of the integrifolia morph


In Bahia Chasco, Atacama, the integrifolia morph of Macrocystis forms one of the most important kelp forests in northern Chile. In order to determine effects of local harvesting policies, we evaluated the population dynamics of this resource in intact, frequently disturbed, and permanently and completely harvested areas. Recruitment, frond length, reproductive phenology and standing crop were assessed monthly. In intact areas, frond length and ratio of reproductive individuals were higher, but recruitment was poorly stimulated. On the other hand, complete harvest had an important effect on Macrocystis population dynamics. Whereas recruitment and growth were much higher after harvest events, reproductive phenology was lower. The harvest techniques with different frequencies practiced by Bahia Chasco fishermen were less harmful than complete harvest, and we conclude that current exploitation techniques applied in this location are not deleterious for the giant kelp beds. They even have favorable effects by renewing the population through stimulation of sexual reproduction, recruitment and growth of young individuals.

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The funding of this study was granted to RW by Gobierno Regional de Atacama (Fondo a la Innovación y la Competividad FIC), through 2010 and 2011 grants. We thank for comments by two anonymous reviewers. The technical support by Carlos Atero (Laboratorio de Macroalgas UACh) and Claudio Soza (Bahia Chasco fisherman) is also acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Renato Westermeier.

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Westermeier, R., Murúa, P., Patiño, D.J. et al. Giant kelp (Macrocystis) fishery in Atacama (Northern Chile): biological basis for management of the integrifolia morph. J Appl Phycol 26, 1071–1079 (2014).

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