Experimental effects of kelp canopies on subtidal coralline algae


*Corresponding author.


Plants are often grouped as canopy species or understorey species because it is thought that that these sets of taxa interact in predictable ways. Mensurative experiments in southern Australia demonstrated that the percentage cover of encrusting coralline algae was greater, and articulated (branching) coralline algae less, on boulders under a canopy of dense kelp (>7 plants per m2), Ecklonia radiata, than on boulders without kelp. Experimental clearances of kelp and reciprocal transplants of boulders between patches of E. radiata and patches without kelp showed that canopies maintained and facilitated the growth of encrusting coralline algae and reduced the cover of articulated coralline algae. Potential artefacts associated with clearing kelp and transplanting boulders were not detected when tested with a series of translocation controls. These results reject the model that the co-occurrence of E. radiata and encrusting corallines is just an assemblage of plants caused by spatial and temporal coincidence. Instead, they support the model that kelp facilitates the growth and survival of understorey algae.