On the ecology of Cystophora spp. forests

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Cystophora is the second largest genus of fucoids worldwide and, like many other forest-forming macroalgae, is increasingly threatened by a range of anthropogenic impacts including ocean warming. Yet, limited ecological information is available from the warm portion of their range (SW Western Australia), where severe range contractions are predicted to occur. Here, we provide the first insights on the abundance, diversity, productivity, and stand structure of Cystophora forests in this region. Forests were ubiquitous over more than 800 km of coastline and dominated sheltered and moderately-exposed reefs. Stand biomass and productivity were similar or greater than that of kelp forests in the temperate reef communities examined, suggesting that Cystophora spp. play a similarly important ecological role. The stand structure of Cystophora forests was, however, different than those of kelp forests, with most stands featuring an abundant bank of sub-canopy juveniles and only a few plants forming the canopy layer. Stand productivity followed an opposite seasonal pattern than that of kelps, with maximal growth in late autumn through early winter and net biomass loss in summer. Annually, stands contributed between 2.2 and 5.7 kg center dot m(-2) (fresh biomass) to reef productivity depending on the dominant stand species. We propose that Cystophora forests play an important and unique role in supporting subtidal temperate diversity and productivity throughout temperate Australia, and urge a better understanding of their ecology and responses to anthropogenic threats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)760-772
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Phycology
Issue number6
Early online date5 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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