Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 15, 2017

Supply and survival: glacial melt imposes limitations at the kelp microscopic life stage

Sarah B. Traiger and Brenda Konar
From the journal Botanica Marina


High-latitude kelp beds may be at risk from increasing sedimentation rates due to glacial melt. Nereocystis luetkeana (hereafter Nereocystis) sporophytes (canopy-forming) occur infrequently downstream of glacial melt where thick layers of sediment accumulate, while Saccharina latissima (hereafter Saccharina) sporophytes (understorey) are common in these areas. We examined whether glacial melt conditions affect adult summer fecundity, how sedimentation affects early gametophyte survival and growth and whether competitive interactions among gametophytes are altered by the presence of sediment. Summer fecundity did not differ in relation to glacial discharge for either species. In single species treatments, there was an effect of sediment on gametophyte survival for Saccharina but not Nereocystis. In mixed species treatments when no sediment was added, Nereocystis had higher survival than Saccharina when Nereocystis was settled first. When sediment was added, Saccharina had higher survival than Nereocystis when Saccharina was settled first. There was no difference in gametophyte growth between the two species for any treatment. Settlement timing may explain the ability of Nereocystis to coexist with Saccharina and to occur in some locations downstream of glacial discharge. Climate change could result in the loss of Nereocystis by favoring Saccharina gametophytes in competitive interactions.


This research was supported in part by a University of Alaska Fairbanks Global Change Student Research Grant award with funds from the Cooperative Institute for Alaska Research. This research was also sponsored by Alaska Sea Grant with funds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Sea Grant, Department of Commerce, under grant no. NA14OAR4170079 (project no. R/101-09), and from the University of Alaska with funds appropriated by the state. Additional funding was provided by the Phycological Society of America Grant-in-Aid of Research and the Women Divers Hall of Fame Marine Conservation scholarship. We thank the staff at the Kasitsna Bay Laboratory for laboratory and boating support. We thank our volunteer divers Kim Powel, Alexandra Ravelo, Shelby Surdyk and Ben Weitzman for their assistance with sample collection. We thank Matt Edwards, Sarah Hardy, Wayne Litaker, Stephen Okkonen and members of the Konar/Iken laboratory for their comments on the manuscript.


Appendix 1:

The dates when each independent competition-sedimentation experimental run was conducted in 2017 are shown.

Run numberInitial gametophyte countEnd gametophyte count and measurement
1July 9July 15
2August 14August 20
3August 14August 21
4August 24August 31
5August 25August 31
6September 2September 8

  1. Separate spore solutions were used for all runs, including those started on the same date.


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Received: 2017-4-26
Accepted: 2017-10-18
Published Online: 2017-11-15
Published in Print: 2017-11-27

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