Public Library of Science
School of Natural Sciences
Kelp species are ecologically-important habitat-formers in coastal marine ecosystems, where they alter environmental conditions and promote local biodiversity by providing complex biogenic habitat for an array of associated organisms. While it is widely accepted that kelps harbour significant biodiversity, our current understanding of spatiotemporal variability in kelp-associated assemblages and the key environmental drivers of variability patterns remains limited. Here we examined the influence of ocean temperature and wave exposure on the structure of faunal assemblages associated with the holdfasts of Laminaria hyperborea, the dominant habitat-forming kelp in the northeast Atlantic. We sampled holdfasts from 12 kelp-dominated open-coast sites nested within four regions across the UK, spanning ~9⁰ in latitude and ~2.7⁰ C in mean sea surface temperature. Overall, holdfast assemblages were highly diverse, with 261 taxa representing 11 phyla recorded across the study. We examined patterns of spatial variability for sessile and mobile taxa separately, and documented high variability between regions, between sites within regions, and between replicate holdfasts for both assemblage types. Mobile assemblage structure was more strongly linked to temperature variability than sessile assemblage structure, which was principally structured by site-level variability in factors such as wave exposure. Patterns in the structure of both biogenic habitat and associated assemblages did not vary predictably along a latitudinal gradient in temperature, indicating that other processes acting across multiple spatial and temporal scales are important drivers of assemblage structure. Overall, kelp holdfasts in the UK supported high levels of diversity, that were similar to other kelp-dominated systems globally and comparable to those recorded for other vegetated marine habitats (i.e. seagrass beds), which are perhaps more widely recognised for their high biodiversity value
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