• Effects Of Glacial Discharge On Kelp Bed Organisms In An Alaskan Subarctic Estuary

      Sparkland, Tania Marie; Iken, Katrin; Braddock, Joan; Gradinger, Rolf; Himelbloom, Brian; Konar, Brenda; Whitledge, Terry (2011)
      Global climate warming is having large-scale, pronounced effects on the physical environment of Arctic and subarctic nearshore marine ecosystems, such as the widespread melting of glaciers. The purpose of this study was to determine how changing environmental conditions due to glacial melting affect subarctic kelp bed community structure and organism fitness. This study compared kelp bed community structure under disparate environmental conditions on a glacially-influenced and an oceanic shore in the same subarctic Alaskan estuary. Laboratory tests assessed the effects of varying salinity and irradiance on growth and physiological competence (as maximum quantum yield ( Fv/Fm)) of the dominant kelp, Saccharina latissima. Reciprocal in situ shore transplant studies examined seasonal growth, Fv/Fm, morphology and storage product levels (mannitol) in S. latissima. This study showed that kelp communities were distinctly different in these two nearshore regions within the same subarctic estuary. In addition, the kelp S. latissima from these two environments, exhibited phenotypic plasticity in terms of growth to varying levels of salinity and light availability, while both populations maintained high physiological competence year-round. However, this phenotypic plasticity was constrained within different seasonal growth patterns in the populations from the two shores, which likely are genetically fixed. This is the first time that phenotypic plasticity within a genetically fixed seasonal growth cycle has been described for macroalgae and especially for two populations in such close proximity. However, the ability to elicit plastic responses and seasonal adaptations in S. latissima may be limited and concerns remain about the long-term persistence of this and other important foundation species and nearshore habitats with continued climate change.