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A functional-group approach to the structure of algal-dominated communities
Steneck, R.S.; Dethier, M.N. (1994). A functional-group approach to the structure of algal-dominated communities. Oikos (Kbh.) 69: 476-498
In: Oikos (København). Munksgaard/Munksgaard International: Copenhagen. ISSN 0030-1299, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keywords
    Algae; Grazing; Interspecific relationships; Intertidal environment; Primary production; Rocky shores; Species diversity; Diadema antillarum Philippi, 1845 [WoRMS]; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Steneck, R.S.
  • Dethier, M.N.

Abstract
    We suggest that relatively few species attributes are of overriding importance to the structure of benthic marine algal communities and that these are often shared among taxonomically distant species. Data from the western North Atlantic, eastern North Pacific and Caribbean suggest that patterns in algal biomass, diversity and dominance are strikingly convergent when examined at a functional group level relative to the productivity and herbivore-induced disturbance potentials of the environment. We present a simple graphical model that provides a way to predict algal community composition based on these two environmental axes. This predictability stems from algal functional groups having characteristic rates of mass-specific productivity, thallus longevity and canopy height that cause them to ''behave'' in similar ways. Further, herbivore-induced disturbances have functionally similar impacts on most morphologically and anatomically similar algae regardless of their taxonomic or geographic affinities. Strategies identified for marine algae parallel those of a terrestrial scheme with the addition of disturbance-tolerant plants that characteristically coexist with and even thrive under high levels of disturbance. Algal-dominated communities, when examined at the functional group level, appear to be much more temporally stable and predictable than when examined at the species level.

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