Temperature, Phenology, and Turf Macroalgae Drive Seascape Change: Connections to Mid-trophic Level Species

TitleTemperature, Phenology, and Turf Macroalgae Drive Seascape Change: Connections to Mid-trophic Level Species
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsDijkstra, JA, Litterer, A, Mello, K, O'Brien, B, Rzhanov, Y
Date PublishedNovember 8
PublisherEcological Society of America

Landscape patterns created by the structure and form of foundational species shape ecological processes of community assembly and trophic interactions. In recent years, major shifts in foundation species have occurred in multiple ecosystems. In temperate marine systems, many kelp beds have shifted to turf macroalgae habitats with unknown consequences on seascape patterns or changes in the ecological processes that maintain communities. We investigated the effect of turf macroalgae on seascape patterns in three habitats dominated by kelp and turf macroalgae and those that have mixed species composition. We also examined decadal elevations in temperature with known growth and reproductive phenology of kelp and turf macroalgae to provide a mechanistic understanding of the factors that will continue to shape these seascapes. Our results indicate that turf macroalgae produce a more heterogeneous habitat with greater primary free space than those that are mixed or dominated by kelp. Further, we examined the relationship between seascape patterns and richness and abundance of fishes in each habitat. Results showed that patch size was positively related to the abundance of fish in habitat types, suggesting that turf‐induced heterogeneity may lead to fewer observed fishes, specifically the mid‐trophic level species, cunner, in these habitats. Overall, our results suggest that persistence of this habitat is facilitated by increasing temperature that shorten the phenology of kelps and favor growth and reproduction of turf macroalgae that make them poised to take advantage of free space, regardless of season.

Refereed DesignationRefereed