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Intertidal Macroalgal Community Structure in Southwestern Prince William Sound, Alaska
Long-term sampling of the intertidal zone in southwestern Prince William Sound following the T/V Exxon Valdez oil spill provides the basis for a description of intertidal macroalgal community structure in the poorly studied protected waters of the northeast Pacific Ocean. Diagnostic species are described for three habitat types based on species abundances (cover and frequency). Mixed gravel/sand/silt (mixed-soft) sites are characterized by Fucus gardneri, mussels and barnacles in the mid-intertidal and by Cladophora sericea, Fucus, and Pilayella littoralis in the low intertidal zone; mussels and barnacles are common associates in the latter zone. Polysiphonia aff. tongatensis is found only at mixed-soft sites. Boulder-cobble sites are characterized by Acrosiphonia arcta, Fucus gardneri, and ‘Ralfsia’ sp. in the low zone; the mid-zone is mostly devoid of vegetation. Bedrock shores consist of a supralittoral Verrucaria fringe and a mid-intertidal Fucus-barnacle-mussel zone; the low intertidal is dominated by fleshy red algae at five of seven sites, with average cover exceeding 50%, although Fucus and a number of green algae are also diagnostic of these sites. Significant changes in species abundances over periods as short as 4 weeks are documented for a number of annual species, and interannual differences in species abundance and richness are also reported. Notable fluctuations of macroalgal species in time and space in southwestern Prince William Sound provide a challenge not just in characterizing community structure but also in ascribing changes to particular events.
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