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Reestablishment of the Southern California Rocky Intertidal Brown Alga, Silvetia compressa: An Experimental Investigation of Techniques and Abiotic and Biotic Factors That Affect Restoration Success

Authors

  • Stephen G. Whitaker,

    1. Department of Biological Science; California State University, Fullerton, PO Box 6850, Fullerton, CA 92834-6850, U.S.A.
    2. Present address: National Park Service, Channel Islands National Park, 1901 Spinnaker, Ventura, CA 93001, U.S.A.
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  • Jayson R. Smith,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biological Science; California State University, Fullerton, PO Box 6850, Fullerton, CA 92834-6850, U.S.A.
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  • Steven N. Murray

    1. Department of Biological Science; California State University, Fullerton, PO Box 6850, Fullerton, CA 92834-6850, U.S.A.
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J. R. Smith, email jasmith@fullerton.edu

Abstract

Previous research has indicated that many rocky intertidal macrophyte communities in southern California, and other locations around the world, have shifted from larger, highly productive, fleshy seaweeds toward a smaller, less productive, disturbance-tolerant flora. In widespread decline are ecologically important, canopy-forming, brown seaweeds, such as the southern California rockweed species Silvetia compressa. Restoration efforts are common for depleted biogenic species in other habitats, but restoration within rocky intertidal zones, particularly on wave-exposed coasts, has been largely unexplored. In two phases, we attempted to restore Silvetia populations on a southern California shore by transplanting live plants and experimentally investigating factors that affect their survival. In Phase I, we implemented a three-way factorial design where juvenile Silvetia thalli were transplanted at four sites with a combination of simulated canopy and herbivore exclusion treatments. Transplant survival was low, although enhanced by the presence of a canopy; site and herbivore presence did not affect survival. In Phase II, we used a two-way factorial design, transplanting two size classes of rockweeds (juveniles and reproductive adults) on horizontal and partially shaded, north-facing vertical surfaces at a target location where this rockweed has been missing since at least the 1970s. Transplant survival was moderate but lower than natural survival rates. Larger thalli exhibited significantly higher survival rates than smaller thalli in both the transplanted and naturally occurring populations, particularly on vertical surfaces. Higher mortality on horizontal surfaces may have been due to differences in desiccation stress and human trampling. Transplanting reproductive adults resulted in the subsequent recruitment of new individuals.

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