Seasonal changes in population structure of the tropical deep-water kelp Laminaria abyssalis


  • Communicating editor: W. Nelson.


Tropical kelp populations are rare and anomalous relicts of shallow-water populations that existed during glacial periods of cooler oceanographic climate. The endemic Brazilian tropical kelp, Laminaria abyssalis Joly and Oliveira Filho, occurred at depths below 40 m. The seasonal variations in biological aspects of L. abyssalis sporophyte populations and local variations in seawater nutrients and temperature were evaluated. A population was sampled four times between the austral spring of 2005 to winter 2006. Seasonal variations in the population structure and in the tissue content of nitrogen (N), carbohydrate and pigments were observed. Higher density (6.3 individuals m−2), biomass (7.3 kg m−2) and blade area (13 221 cm2) were observed in summer, while the highest percentage of tissue total N (1.6%), carbohydrates (32.9%) and photosynthetic pigments (chlorophyll a = 1.9% and chlorophyll c = 0.4%) were observed in spring. The highest surface area of fertile tissue in L. abyssalis sporophytes (2.36%) was recorded in winter, indicating winter as the season when more investments are made in reproduction. The highest concentrations of total N (6.3 μM) and phosphate (0.6 μM) in seawater were observed in spring and summer, respectively. Seawater temperatures lower than 20°C, which are characteristic of upwelling waters, occurred every month and were most frequent in spring and summer. We show that L. abyssalis invests more in growth in spring and summer and reaches the greatest thallus size and population density in summer. The lower abundance during winter may be related to the lower frequency of temperatures below 20°C and the local seasonal storms that cause turnover of rhodoliths, the main substrate for L. abyssalis.