Epibiont species richness varies between holdfasts of a northern and a southerly distributed kelp species

A. J. Blight, R. C. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


All habitats are modified to some extent by the species that live within them. Kelp is known to have a very strong influence on the surrounding environment providing a habitat for a wide range of organisms including marine mammals,fish and invertebrates. Here we examine the consequences of a subtle shift in the relative abundance of two species of kelp, Laminaria digitata and Laminaria ochroleuca, and compare the hold fast epibiont assemblages on both. These species are morphologically very similar and both provide important biologically generated habitats. The distribution of these kelp species is predicted to alter as a consequence of climate change with L. ochroleuca extending its range northward and potentially outcompeting L. digitata in the north-eastern Atlantic. The epibiont fauna common to both species of kelp were predominantly made up of annelids, molluscs and bryozoans. Most of the epibiont flora we found on the holdfasts was from the class Rhodophyceae. Multivariate analysis showed that the richness of epibiont species associated with L. ochroleuca was significantly lower, a mean of 0.62 species per cm(3), when compared to the northern species, L. digitata which had a mean Of 1.13 species per cm(3). Laminaria digitata also had more unique epibiont species indicating that species richness of holdfast assemblages is likely to decline if L. digitata is replaced by L. ochroleuca. These data illustrate the importance of studying biologically generated habitats when considering the potential consequences of climate change on marine assemblages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-475
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2008


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