The role of kelp species as biogenic habitat formers in coastal marine ecosystems

Harry Teagle, Stephen J. Hawkins, Pippa J. Moore, Daniel Smale

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

165 Citations (Scopus)


Kelps are ecologically important primary producers and ecosystem engineers, and play a central role in structuring nearshore temperate habitats. They play an important role in nutrient cycling, energy capture and transfer, and provide biogenic coastal defence. Kelps also provide extensive substrata for colonising organisms, ameliorate conditions for understorey assemblages, and provide three-dimensional habitat structure for a vast array of marine plants and animals, including a number of commercially important species. Here, we review and synthesize existing knowledge on the functioning of kelp species as biogenic habitat providers. We examine biodiversity patterns associated with kelp holdfasts, stipes and blades, as well as the wider understorey habitat, and search for generality between kelp species and biogeographic regions. Environmental factors influencing biogenic habitat provision and the structure of associated assemblages are considered, as are current threats to kelp-dominated ecosystems. Despite considerable variability between species and regions, kelps are key habitat-forming species that support elevated levels of biodiversity, diverse and abundant assemblages and facilitate trophic linkages. Enhanced appreciation and better management of kelp forests are vital for ensuring sustainability of ecological goods and services derived from temperate marine ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-98
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


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