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The Biology and Ecology of Giant Kelp Forests$
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David R. Schiel and Michael S. Foster

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780520278868

Published to California Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520278868.001.0001

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Giant Kelp Communities

Giant Kelp Communities

(p.101) 5 Giant Kelp Communities
The Biology and Ecology of Giant Kelp Forests

David R. Schiel

Michael S. Foster

University of California Press

This chapter discusses the demography and metapopulation ecology of giant kelp, and the processes that underlie connectivity of kelp beds or patches, including spore production and dispersal. There is a considerable size dependency in the demographics of Macrocystis across its life stages. Adults generally decline in numbers over 3–4 orders of magnitude from when they are visible recruits, with longevity depending on sites and conditions. During the initial phases of microsporophyte production, numbers decline by 4–6 orders of magnitude, and there is also massive mortality during the period from spore release to microsporophyte production. Environmental variability in biotic and abiotic disturbances was the primary driver of extinction and recolonization. The great majority of recruitment failures was short term, and connectivity via spores was common. However, many patches are near the limits of spore dispersal from other patches, which highlights their vulnerability to prolonged extinction should unfavorable conditions persist, such as climate change.

Keywords:   giant kelp demography, giant kelp ecology, kelp beds, spore production, spore dispersal, microsporophyte production, biotic disturbances, abiotic disturbances

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