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Title: The influence of ocean warming on the provision of biogenic habitat by kelp species
Author: Teagle, Harry Andrew
ISNI:       0000 0004 7656 3117
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2018
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Kelp forests represent some of the most productive and diverse habitats on Earth, and play a critical role in structuring nearshore temperate and subpolar environments. They have an important role in nutrient cycling, energy capture and transfer, and offer biogenic coastal defence. Kelps also provide extensive substrata for colonising organisms, ameliorate conditions for understorey assemblages, and generate three-dimensional habitat structure for a vast array of marine plants and animals, including a number of ecologically and commercially important species. This thesis aimed to describe the role of temperature on the functioning of kelp forests as biogenic habitat formers, predominantly via the substitution of cold water kelp species by warm water kelp species, or through the reduction in density of dominant habitat forming kelp due to predicted increases in seawater temperature. The work comprised three main components; (1) a broad scale study into the environmental drivers (including sea water temperature) of variability in holdfast assemblages of the dominant habitat forming kelp in the UK, Laminaria hyperborea, (2) a comparison of the warm water kelp Laminaria ochroleuca and the cold water kelp L. hyperborea as habitat forming species, and further investigation into the impacts of this subtle climate driven substitution of habitat forming kelps, and (3) experimental manipulation of densities of the dominant intertidal kelp in the UK, Laminaria digitata, in order to understand the impacts of climate driven loss of a dominant habitat forming species. L. hyperborea assemblages varied significantly between study regions spanning ~9° of latitude, as well as between and within sites at a local scale. Patterns in mobile and sessile assemblage structure were driven principally by different environmental factors. Overall patterns in the structure of biogenic habitat and assemblage structure did not vary predictably with latitude, indicating that other processes acting across multiple spatial scales are important drivers of assemblage structure. L. ochroleuca hosted impoverished assemblages associated with both holdfasts and stipes, compared with L. hyperborea. Further, climate driven increases in the relative abundance of L. ochroleuca relative to L. hyperborea lead to disruption of an important habitat cascade associated with the stipe of L. hyperborea and epiphytic algae. L. ochroleuca stipes typically lack the dense epiphytic assemblage associated with L. hyperborea, and host depauperate faunal assemblages which may have impacts on higher trophic levels. Experimental reduction in the density of L. digitata led to a dramatic shift in dominance from perennial to annual species, particularly the pseudo-kelp Saccorhiza polyschides on an exposed rocky shore. Impacts on a sheltered shore were subtler, and may have been tempered by the presence of another perennial kelp, Saccharina latissima. Loss of L. digitata led to a reduction in the standing stock of macroalgae after ~2.5 years of manipulation on both shores. These findings have significant implications for the structure and functioning of rocky shores in the future. Overall, anthropogenic climate change is likely to negatively impact the functioning of kelp forests as repositories of biodiversity in the future via the reshuffling of warm- and cold-water kelp species and through an overall loss of algal biomass and associated habitat due to continued increases in seawater temperature in the northeast Atlantic.
Supervisor: Hawkins, Stephen John Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available