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Effects of Zoospore Aggregation and Substrate Rugosity on Kelp Recruitment Success


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Successful kelp recruitment is important for kelp population persistence and associated kelp forest communities. The proximity of settled kelp zoospores is a known requirement for successful kelp recruitment and proximity can be increased as zoospores aggregate. Substrate rugosity can also be an important factor affecting macroalgal settlement and recruitment in wave-swept areas, and may affect kelp recruitment by aggregating zoospores. In this study, kelp zoospores were cultured at different levels of small-scale aggregation and kelp recruitment was quantified. Sporophyte production significantly increased as zoospores became more aggregated indicating that processes that aggregate kelp zoospores have the potential to enhance kelp recruitment. A 13-month field experiment demonstrated differential kelp recruitment onto settlement plates that mimicked surface rugosities of two common rock types within Stillwater Cove, Carmel Bay in central California (Carmelo Formation sandstone and Santa Lucia granodiorite). Significantly more kelp recruited to molds mimicking granodiorite over the yearlong study (granodiorite = 2.7 recruits ± SE 0.50, sandstone = 1.2 recruits ± SE 0.51). There was a significant difference in recruitment between seasons and this variability was due to the fact that spring had the highest average number of kelp recruits per mold. However, the interaction between substrate and season was not significant. This study emphasizes the importance of kelp zoospore aggregation on kelp recruitment and demonstrates that small-scale rugosity affects kelp recruitment.