The effects of mysid grazing on kelp zoospore survival and settlement


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Recent studies have indicated that long-distance dispersal by kelp zoospores may play an important role in the colonization of newly exposed rocky habitats and in the recovery of recently disturbed kelp forests. This may be facilitated by the vertical transport of zoospores into the shallower portions of the water column where they are exposed to greater alongshore currents that increase their dispersal potential. However, this vertical transport can also expose them to elevated irradiances and enhanced grazing by zooplankton, both of which negatively impact zoospore survival and settlement. In this study, we used plankton tows to show that zooplankton (mysids) were at least seven times more abundant in the surface waters than near the benthos along the edge of a large kelp forest at the time of our spring sampling. We then used feeding experiments and epifluorescence microscopy to verify that these mysids grazed on kelp zoospores. Finally, we conducted laboratory experiments to show that grazing by these mysids over a 12 h period reduced kelp zoospore settlement by at least 50% relative to treatments without grazing. Together with previous studies that have revealed the impacts of high irradiance on zoospore survival and settlement, our study indicates that the vertical transport of kelp zoospores into the shallower portions of the water can also expose them to significantly increased mortality from mysid grazing. Thus, if these patterns are consistent over broader temporal and geographic scales, vertical transport may not be a viable method for sustained long-distance zoospore dispersal.