Kelp forests, highly diverse cold water communities organized around the primary productivity and physical structure provided by members of the Laminariales, support a variety of fisheries, and the kelp itself is harvested for alginates. Worldwide, these communities generally share susceptibility to destructive overgrazing by sea urchins. The impact of sea-urchin grazing is governed by the ratio between food availability and grazing pressure, thus factors affecting the abundance of both urchins and kelps are central to ecosystem integrity. Some kelp ecosystems share a second generality, the association of exploitation of various urchin predators with destructive levels of urchin grazing, leading to cascading implications for other species dependent on the productivity and habitat provided by the kelps. Competition between abalones and sea urchins also affects some kelp communities. These ecosystem-structuring processes are complicated by a variety of bottom-up and top-down factors, including variability in ocean climate affecting kelp productivity and recruitment of key species, and echinoid disease. Potential ecosystem effects of fisheries for predators, abalones, sea urchins, and kelps are reviewed biogeographically. Given the hundreds to thousands of years that many nearshore marine ecosystems have been exploited, no-take marine reserves may be the only way to determine the true ecosystem effects of fishing. (C) 2000 International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.
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