von Bertalanffy curves were used to describe the nonlinear relationship between assemblages inhabiting holdfasts of the kelp Ecklonia radiata and the volume of the holdfast. This was done using nonlinear canonical analyses of principal coordinates (NCAP). The volume of the holdfast is a proxy for the age of the plant and, thus, the canonical axis is a proxy for succession in the marine invertebrate community inhabiting the holdfast. Analyses were done at several different taxonomic resolutions on the basis of various dissimilarity measures. Assemblages in relatively large holdfasts demonstrated ongoing variation in community structure with increasing volume when the dissimilarity used was independent of sample size. Smaller holdfasts had proportionately greater abundances of ophiuroids and encrusting organisms (bryozoans, sponges, ascidians), while larger holdfasts were characterised by proportionately greater abundances of crustaceans, polychaetes and molluscs. Such linear and nonlinear multivariate models may be applied to analyse system-level responses to the growth of many habitat-forming organisms, such as sponges, coral reefs, coralline algal turf or forest canopies.
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