• Kelp bed variability and fish population dynamics in Kachemak Bay, Alaska

      Hamilton, Judith Ann (2004-08)
      Understanding interactions between kelp beds and fishes is essential because anthropogenic changes and natural variability in these beds (composition, density, and distribution) may affect available habitat for fishes. In Alaska, little is known about the annual and seasonal variability of macroalgal cover in kelp beds and corresponding changes in associated fish populations. This study investigated natural variability using monthly SCUBA surveys in Kachemak Bay, Alaska from May 2002 to September 2003. Ten shallow (approximately 7m water depth) nearshore kelp beds with varying degrees of macroalgal cover were surveyed visually for fishes and kelp, and measurements of environmental variables were collected. These kelp beds had a persistent, perennial-dominated understory with sporadic, sparse populations of annual canopy kelp. Understory and canopy kelps had affinities with greater bottom structure, and annual kelp density was greatest during periods with higher temperatures. Hexagrammids, especially kelp greenlings, existed year-round in the more structurally complex beds and were typically more abundant during periods with higher temperatures, and at sites with denser annual kelp populations. Most other fishes were transient and generally present only during summer months. Monthly changes in kelp and fish communities reflected a strong seasonal component.