San Diego State University Department of Biology
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Consequences of habitat disturbance and recovery to recruitment and the abundance of kelp forest fishes (funded by National Undersea Research Program -- West Coast and Polar Region Center; National Science Foundation; SDSU Master's Program in Ecology)


Kevin O'Connor's thesis project -- 

Previous research on fish-kelp relationships has found that recruitment and the abundance of fishes is often positively related to the abundance of kelp. Manipulations of kelp abundance, however, have explored the distribution and abundance of fishes in the presence and absence of kelp, but not variation in the density of kelp as a proxy for a gradient in disturbance. Kevin conducted research at the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Santa Catalina Island, off Los Angeles, California. The objective of Kevin's study was to determine the effects of disturbance and the recovery of giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) on the recruitment and abundance of fishes. He also monitored the recovery of kelp to address at what point recovery from treatments of disturbance was equivalent to undisturbed kelp in terms of fish abundance. In addition, Kevin conducted experiments to determine whether the distribution and morphology of fronds that represent mature vs. recovering kelp forests influenced recruitment of fishes.

Although there were differences among treatments for both recruits and older life stages of fishes, recovery of kelp occurred within a 1-yr period, with no detectable differences in recruitment or the abundance of older fishes among treatments thereafter.  In his small-scale experiment to determine whether there were differences between the distribution and morphology of giant kelp that represent mature vs. recovering kelp forests, the distribution of fronds was most important in recruitments success of kelp bass (Paralabrax clathratus) and senorita (Oxyjulis californica). These results demonstrate that a gradient of disturbance can produce differences in recruitment and the abundance of older life stages that would not be detected with the mere presence and absence of giant kelp. 

This page was last modified on May 10, 2012.  

SDSU Fish Ecology Lab

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