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2019

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  • This in situ temperature data was collected from HOBO pendent loggers at Cayo Mario and Cayo Enrique, La Parguera, Puerto Rico, from 06/30/2017 to 06/20/2019. The loggers were placed at different depths around the reefs, and the goal was to compare the in situ temperature to satellite SST to see how representative the satellite SST was of the temperature at the depth of the corals.

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    Data accompanying Layton et al. 2019, Resilience and stability of kelp forests: the importance of patch dynamics and environment-engineer feedbacks. PLOS ONE. To explore how resilience and stability of kelp habitats is influenced by this habitat degradation, we created an array of patch reefs of various sizes and supporting adult Ecklonia radiata kelp transplanted at different densities. This enabled testing of how sub-canopy abiotic conditions change with reductions in patch size and adult kelp density, and how this influenced demographic processes of microscopic and macroscopic juvenile kelp.

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    Sea urchins have the capacity to destructively overgraze kelp beds and cause a wholesale shift to an alternative and stable ‘urchin barren’ state. However, their destructive grazing behaviour can be highly labile and contingent on behavioural shifts at the individual and local population level. Changes in supply of allochthonous food sources, i.e. availability of drift-kelp, is often suggested as a proximate trigger of change in sea urchin grazing behaviour, yet field tests of this hypothesis are rare. Here we conduct a suite of in situ behavioural surveys and manipulative experiments within kelp beds and on urchin barrens to examine foraging movements and evidence for a behavioural switch to an overgrazing mode by the Australian sea urchin Heliocidaris erythrogramma (Echinometridae). Tracking of urchins using time-lapse photography revealed urchin foraging to broadly conform to a random-walk-model within both kelp beds and on barren grounds, while at the individual level there was a tendency towards local ‘homing’ to proximate crevices. However, consistent with locally observed ‘mobile feeding fronts’ that can develop at the barrens-kelp interface, urchins were experimentally inducible to show directional movement toward newly available kelp. Furthermore, field assays revealed urchin grazing rates to be high on both simulated drift-kelp and attached kelp thalli on barren grounds, however drift-kelp but not attached kelp was consumed at high rates within kelp beds. Time-lapse tracking of urchin foraging before/ after the controlled addition of drift-kelp on barrens revealed a reduction in foraging movement across the reef surface when drift-kelp was captured. Collectively results indicate that the availability of drift-kelp is a pivotal trigger in determining urchin feeding modes, which is demonstrably passive and cryptic in the presence of a ready supply of drift-kelp. Recovery of kelp beds therefore appears possible if a sustained influx of drift-kelp was to inundate urchin barrens, particularly on reefs where local urchin densities and where grazing pressure is close to the threshold enabling kelp bed recovery.

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    Data were collected from 28 artificial reefs varying in size and supporting different densities of transplanted kelp (Ecklonia radiata). We used rope fibre habitats (RFHs) attached to the benthos of the reefs and destructive sampling of understory algae to collect data on epifaunal invertebrates that naturally colonised the reefs (e.g. secondary productivity, species richness, Shannon diversity). The goal of the research was to understand how kelp structure influences the biodiversity and secondary productivity of epifauna.

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    -- Layton et al. Chemical microenvironments within macroalgal assemblages: implications for the inhibition of kelp recruitment by turf algae. Limnology & Oceanography. DOI:10.1002/lno.11138 -- Kelp forests around the world are under increasing pressure from anthropogenic stressors. A widespread consequence is that in many places, complex and highly productive kelp habitats have been replaced by structurally simple and less productive turf algae habitats. Turf algae habitats resist re-establishment of kelp via recruitment inhibition; however little is known about the specific mechanisms involved. One potential factor is the chemical environment within the turf algae and into which kelp propagules settle and develop. Using laboratory trials, we illustrate that the chemical microenvironment (O2 concentration and pH) 0.0–50 mm above the benthos within four multispecies macroalgal assemblages (including a turf-sediment assemblage and an Ecklonia radiata kelp-dominated assemblage) are characterised by elevated O2 and pH relative to the surrounding seawater. Notably however, O2 and pH were significantly higher within turf-sediment assemblages than in kelp-dominated assemblages, and at levels that have previously been demonstrated to impair the photosynthetic or physiological capacity of kelp propagules. Field observations of the experimental assemblages confirmed that recruitment of kelp was significantly lower into treatments with dense turf algae than in the kelp-dominated assemblages. We demonstrate differences between the chemical microenvironments of kelp and turf algae assemblages that correlate with differences in kelp recruitment, highlighting how degradation of kelp habitats might result in the persistence of turf algae habitats and the localised absence of kelp.