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Marine Ecology-Progress Series

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Abstract/ Summary

The American lobster Homarus americanus and kelp Laminaria longicruris and L. saccharina are prominent and often intimately associated members of the subtidal community in the western North Atlantic Ocean. However, no one has identified the nature of this relationship or specifically investigated whether kelp beds are a superior habitat for lobsters. We conducted field studies in 1990 and 1991 at a coastal site centrally located along the Gulf of Maine, USA, to determine how lobsters use kelp beds as habitat. Identically sized and spaced plots of live and artificial (plastic) kelp were established and monitored for lobster population densities. Adjacent featureless sediment plots of identical size served as controls. Lobster population density and biomass were significantly higher in both real and artificial kelp treatments than in non-kelp control plots (p < 0.0001). The change in lobster density was apparent the day following placement of the experiment, so a secondary trophic effect such as attracting prey into treatments is unlikely to have occurred. Thus, kelp beds can affect local lobster population densities by providing shelter for lobsters, thereby concentrating individuals and increasing the local carrying capacity of potential lobster habitats. The effect of kelp beds on the local carrying capacity of lobster habitats was further explored by testing how lobsters respond to differing patch sizes. A graded size series of circular patches of artificial kelp was established, in which kelp blade density and total area were held constant for each treatment. Treatments were subdivided into four 1 M2, two 2 M2, or one 4 m2 patches. Experiments were surveyed for lobster population density and size structure to determine ff statistical differences existed among treatments. Lobster density was significantly greater in the smallest patches (p < 0.001). Moreover, lobsters typically occupied the edges of kelp beds, and their abundance within kelp patches corresponded to the patch's perimeter-to-area relationship. This suggests that edge effects' influence the local carrying capacity for lobsters by influencing the lobsters' choice of kelp beds as habitat.

Citation/Publisher Attribution

Bologna PAX, Steneck RS. Kelp Beds as Habitat for American Lobster Homarus Americanus. Marine Ecology-Progress Series. 1993;100: 127-134.

Publisher Statement

Copyright 1993 Inter-Research.




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