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Kelp rafts in the Southern Ocean



Kelp rafts were surveyed during three summer traverses between Hobart and Macquarie Island (subAntarctic) to determine the potential for dispersal of kelp-associated macroinvertebrates across the latitudes of 46–53°S. Rafts of Durvillaea antarctica dominated the sightings (94% of rafts) and extrapolations to the full Southern Ocean between these latitudes indicate a figure of over 70 million rafts afloat at any one time, 20 million of which support a holdfast, the habitat supporting the highest faunal diversity in attached kelp plants. In contrast, few, small rafts of Macrocystis pyrifera were observed. The potential for dispersal of fauna is presumed to be related to the species of kelp with which they are associated. Empirical studies of survival of animals while drifting at sea, and also on making land-fall, are required to allow fuller interpretation of the significance of these findings.