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Global ecology of the giant kelp Macrocystis: from ecotypes to ecosystems
Graham, M.H.; Vásquez, J.A.; Buschmann, A.H. (2007). Global ecology of the giant kelp Macrocystis: from ecotypes to ecosystems. Oceanogr. Mar. Biol. Ann. Rev. 45: 39-88
In: Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review. Aberdeen University Press/Allen & Unwin: London. ISSN 0078-3218, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in Authors 

Keywords
    Ecology; Ecotypes; Kelps; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Graham, M.H.
  • Vásquez, J.A.
  • Buschmann, A.H.

Abstract
    The giant kelp Macrocystis is the world's largest benthic organism and most widely distributed kelp taxon, serving as the foundation for diverse and energy-rich habitats that are of great ecological and economical importance. Although the basic and applied literature on Macrocystis is extensive and multinational, studies of large Macrocystis forests in the northeastern Pacific have received the greatest attention. This review synthesises the existing Macrocystis literature into a more global perspective. During the last 20 yr, the primary literature has shifted from descriptive and experimental studies of local Macrocystis distribution, abundance and population and community structure (e.g., competition and herbivory) to comprehensive investigations of Macrocystis life history, dispersal, recruitment, physiology and broad-scale variability in population and community processes. Ample evidence now suggests that the genus is monospecific. Due to its highly variable physiology and life history, Macrocystis occupies a wide variety of environments (intertidal to 60+ m, boreal to warm temperate) and sporophytes take on a variety of morphological forms. Macrocystis sporophytes are highly responsive to environmental variability, resulting in differential population dynamics and effects of Macrocystis on its local environment. Within the large subtidal giant kelp forests of southern California, Macrocystis sporophytes live long, form extensive surface canopies that shade the substratum and dampen currents, and produce and retain copious amounts of reproductive propagules. The majority of subtidal Macrocystis populations worldwide, however, are small, narrow, fringing forests that are productive and modify environmental resources (e.g., light), yet are more dynamic than their large southern California counterparts with local recruitment probably resulting from remote propagule production. When intertidal, Macrocystis populations exhibit vegetative propagation. Growth of high-latitude Macrocystis sporophytes is seasonal, coincident with temporal variability in insolation, whereas growth at low latitudes tracks more episodic variability in nutrient delivery. Although Macrocystis habitat and energy provision varies with such ecotypic variability in morphology and productivity, the few available studies indicate that Macrocystis-associated communities are universally diverse and productive. Furthermore, temporal and spatial variability in the structure and dynamics of these systems appears to be driven by processes that regulate Macrocystis distribution, abundance and productivity, rather than the consumptive processes that make some other kelp systems vulnerable to overexploitation. This global synthesis suggests that the great plasticity in Macrocystis form and function is a key determinant of the great global ecological success of Macrocystis.

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