CIE Spotlight: Environmental controls on spatial patterns in the long-term persistence of giant kelp in central California

Mary Y.

Mary Y.

Title: Environmental controls on spatial patterns in the long-term persistence of giant kelp in central California

Authors: Young, Mary; Cavanaugh, Kyle; Bell, Tom; Raimondi, Pete; Edwards, Christopher A.; Drake, Patrick T.; Erikson, Li; Storlazzi, Curt

Source: ECOLOGICAL MONOGRAPHS, 86 (1):45-60, FEB 2016

Brief summary of the paper: As marine management measures increasingly protect static areas of the oceans, it is important to make sure protected areas capture and protect persistent populations.

Rocky reefs in many temperate areas worldwide serve as habitat for canopy-forming macroalgae and these structure-forming species of kelps (order Laminariales) often serve as important habitat for a great diversity of species. Macrocystis pyriferais the most common canopy-forming kelp species found along the coast of California, but the distribution and abundance of M. pyriferavaries in space and time.

The purpose of this study is to determine what environmental parameters are correlated with and their relative contribution to the spatial and temporal persistence of M. pyrifera along the central coast of California and how well those environmental parameters can be used to predict areas where this species is more likely to persist.

Nine environmental variables considered in this study included depth of the seafloor, structure of the rocky reef, proportion of rocky reef, size of kelp patch, biomass of kelp within a patch, distance from the edge of a kelp patch, sea surface temperature, wave orbital velocities, and population connectivity of individual kelp patches.

Using a generalized linear mixed effects model (GLMM), the persistence of M. pyrifera was significantly associated with seven of the nine variables considered: depth, complexity of the rocky reef, proportion of rock, patch biomass, distance from the edge of a patch, population connectivity, and wave orbital velocities.

These seven environmental variables were then used to predict the persistence of kelp across the central coast, and these predictions were compared to a reserved dataset of M. pyrifera persistence, which was not used in the creation of the GLMM. The environmental variables were shown to accurately predict the persistence of M. pyrifera within the central coast of California (r = 0.71, P < 0.001).

Because persistence of giant kelp is important to the community structure of kelp forests, understanding those factors that support persistent populations of M. pyrifera will enable more effective management of these ecosystems.