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  1. Abstract Background and Aims

    The increased likelihood and severity of storm events has brought into focus the role of coastal ecosystems in provision of shoreline protection by attenuating wave energy. Canopy-forming kelps, including giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera), are thought to provide this ecosystem service, but supporting data are extremely limited. Previous in situ examinations relied mostly on comparisons between nominally similar sites with and without kelp. Given that other factors (especially seafloor bathymetry and topographic features) often differ across sites, efforts to isolate the effects of kelp on wave energy propagation confront challenges. In particular, it can be difficult to distinguish wave energy dissipation attributable to kelp from frictional processes at the seabed that often covary with the presence of kelp. Here, we use an ecological transition from no kelp to a full forest, at a single site with static bathymetry, to resolve unambiguously the capacity of giant kelp to damp waves.


    We measured waves within and outside rocky reef habitat, in both the absence and the presence of giant kelp, at Marguerite Reef, Palos Verdes, CA, USA. Nested within a broader kelp restoration project, this site transitioned from a bare state to one supporting a fully formed forest (density of 8 stipes m−2). We quantified, as a function of incident wave conditions, the decline in wave energy flux attributable to the presence of kelp, as waves propagated from outside and into reef habitat.

    Key Results

    The kelp forest damped wave energy detectably, but to a modest extent. Interactions with the seabed alone reduced wave energy flux, on average, by 12 ± 1.4 % over 180 m of travel. The kelp forest induced an additional 7 ± 1.2 % decrease. Kelp-associated declines in wave energy flux were slightly greater for waves of longer periods and smaller wave heights.


    Macrocystis pyrifera forests have a limited, albeit measurable, capacity to enhance shoreline protection from nearshore waves. Expectations that giant kelp forests, whether extant or enhanced through restoration, have substantial impacts on wave-induced coastal erosion might require re-evaluation.

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  2. Theoretically, species' characteristics should allow estimation of dispersal potential and, in turn, explain levels of population genetic differentiation. However, a mismatch between traits and genetic patterns is often reported for marine species, and interpreted as evidence that life-history traits do not influence dispersal. Here, we couple ecological and genomic methods to test the hypothesis that species with attributes favouring greater dispersal potential—e.g., longer pelagic duration, higher fecundity and larger population size—have greater realized dispersal overall. We used a natural experiment created by a large-scale and multispecies mortality event which created a “clean slate” on which to study recruitment dynamics, thus simplifying a usually complex problem. We surveyed four species of differing dispersal potential to quantify the abundance and distribution of recruits and to genetically assign these recruits to probable parental sources. Species with higher dispersal potential recolonized a broader extent of the impacted range, did so more quickly and recovered more genetic diversity than species with lower dispersal potential. Moreover, populations of taxa with higher dispersal potential exhibited more immigration (71%–92% of recruits) than taxa with lower dispersal potential (17%–44% of recruits). By linking ecological with genomic perspectives, we demonstrate that a suite of interacting life-history and demographic attributes do influence species' realized dispersal and genetic neighbourhoods. To better understand species' resilience and recovery in this time of global change, integrative eco-evolutionary approaches are needed to more rigorously evaluate the effect of dispersal-linked attributes on realized dispersal and population genetic differentiation. 
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  5. Abstract

    A huge fraction of global biodiversity resides within biogenic habitats that ameliorate physical stresses. In most cases, details of how physical conditions within facilitative habitats respond to external climate forcing remain unknown, hampering climate change predictions for many of the world’s species. Using intertidal mussel beds as a model system, we characterize relationships among external climate conditions and within‐microhabitat heat and desiccation conditions. We use these data, along with physiological tolerances of two common inhabitant taxa (the isopodCirolana harfordiand the porcelain crabPetrolisthes cinctipes), to examine the magnitude of climate risk inside and outside biogenic habitat, applying an empirically derived model of evaporation to simulate mortality risk under a high‐emissions climate‐warming scenario. We found that biogenic microhabitat conditions responded so weakly to external climate parameters that mortality risk was largely unaffected by climate warming. In contrast, outside the biogenic habitat, desiccation drove substantial mortality in both species, even at temperatures 4.4–8.6°C below their hydrated thermal tolerances. These findings emphasize the importance of warming‐exacerbated desiccation to climate‐change risk and the role of biogenic habitats in buffering this less‐appreciated stressor. Our results suggest that, when biogenic habitats remain intact, climate warming may have weak direct effects on organisms within them. Instead, risk to such taxa is likely to be indirect and tightly coupled with the fate of habitat‐forming populations. Conserving and restoring biogenic habitats that offer climate refugia could therefore be crucial to supporting biodiversity in the face of climate warming.

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  6. Abstract

    Ocean acidification is expected to degrade marine ecosystems, yet most studies focus on organismal‐level impacts rather than ecological perturbations. Field studies are especially sparse, particularly ones examining shifts in direct and indirect consumer interactions. Here we address such connections within tidepool communities of rocky shores, focusing on a three‐level food web involving the keystone sea star predator,Pisaster ochraceus, a common herbivorous snail,Tegula funebralis, and a macroalgal basal resource,Macrocystis pyrifera. We demonstrate that during nighttime low tides, experimentally manipulated declines in seawater pH suppress the anti‐predator behavior of snails, bolstering their grazing, and diminishing the top‐down influence of predators on basal resources. This attenuation of top‐down control is absent in pools maintained experimentally at higher pH. These findings suggest that as ocean acidification proceeds, shifts of behaviorally mediated links in food webs could change how cascading effects of predators manifest within marine communities.

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