The effect of wave exposure on the morphology of Ecklonia radiata

Document Type

Journal Article


Elsevier Ltd


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Natural Sciences




Wernberg, T., & Thomsen, M. S. (2005). The effect of wave exposure on the morphology of Ecklonia radiata. Aquatic Botany, 83(1), 61-70. Available here


This study examined the consistency of the effect of wave exposure on the morphology of Ecklonia radiata, a small kelp, across a broad geographic range (>1100 km). Fifteen morphological characters were measured on individuals from sites of low (2.5 ± 0.8 S.E.) and high (12.2 ± 2.0 S.E.) wave exposure (Baardseth's index) within six locations in southwestern Australia. With the exception of lateral width (P = 0.0001), none of the morphological characters were consistently statistically different (P > 0.06) between high and low wave exposure and correlations with wave exposure were generally weak (r < 0.60). While 12 of the 15 characters were statistically different (P < 0.008) between sites of different exposure within at least one location, the direction of difference (significant or not) was opposite between some locations for all but one character (lateral width). ANOSIM was not able to separate thalli from high and low exposure when all locations were pooled (Clarke's R = 0.127), but within each location most sites showed better separation (0.126 < Clarke's R < 0.829). Despite the lack of statistical differences, trends suggested that E. radiata responds to exposure by having drag-reducing (small size, narrow laterals and blades, low spinosity) and strength-increasing (relatively large holdfast, thick stipe and thick blades and lamina) morphological traits, as observed for several other kelps in small-scale studies. We conclude that while wave exposure does have an effect on kelp morphology, the effect is not independent of other location-specific processes.





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