Algal community structure and organization in high intertidal rockpools Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/cc08hj624

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  • Gradients of physical disturbance are central to theories of community organization yet rarely are studies performed in which physical factors are experimentally manipulated. Pothole tidepool algal communities exhibit distinct zonation patterns from top to bottom that result from scouring by rocks and other debris in the pools. Scouring is easily manipulated by removing or adding rocks to tidepools. Thus, the gradient of physical disturbance potentially causing community patterns can be manipulated to test theories of community organization. I documented the distribution pattern of algae inhabiting pothole tidepools and measured a number of physical factors which were hypothesized to be responsible for the observed zonation patterns. Then, I experimentally evaluated the roles of physical disturbance, herbivory, and competition in these tidepool communities. I found that scouring by rocks was primarily responsible for the observed zonation patterns in pothole tidepools. However, not all pools are potholes. Evaluation of the physical properties effecting the cobble-retaining ability of tidepools enabled prediction over a broad geographic range of pools likely to have cobbles and thus show typical pothole algal zonation patterns. Coralline algae (Rhodophyta, Corallinaceae) are a dominant feature of tidepools as well as many low intertidal and subtidal habitats. I evaluated the relative resistance of coralline algae (both articulated and crustose forms) and other common tidepool algae to scouring by rocks. Coralline crusts were highly resistant to scouring while articulated coralline algae are very susceptible to scouring. Erect fleshy algal species showed intermediate resistance to scouring. This corresponds well to observed algal zonation patterns in intertidal potholes. Based on this information, I proposed that wave-induced scouring may have been the selective force for the initial incorporation of calcium carbonate into algal thalli.
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