Kelp canopies have long been recognised for their influence on the structure of algal assemblages on sublittoral reefs. In Marmion Lagoon, Western Australia, we investigated how a canopy of the small kelp Ecklonia radiata affected the associated foliose algal assemblage and what potential mechanisms were responsible for the effects we observed. Light levels and physical abrasion (thallus scour) by an E. radiata canopy were manipulated in an orthogonal fixed-factor experiment that revealed that changes in light, but not thallus scour, had a significant effect on the composition of the algal assemblage. Reduced light levels were associated with a decrease in the Shannon-Wiener diversity index and an increased dominance of the foliose algae Pterocladia lucida and Rhodymenia sonderi. Photobiological investigations of three foliose species, P. lucida, R. sonderi and Chauviniella coriifolia indicated that they were able to photoacclimate to low light levels by increasing thallus absorption by up to 11%. Photoacclimation was also evident by an increase in the maximum rate of electron transport under low-light conditions. We conclude that the E. radiata canopy in Marmion Lagoon structures the foliose algal assemblage through the modification of the light environment and that this effect may be mediated by differences in the ability of different species of foliose algae to photoacclimate.
|Publication status||Published - 2004|