Marine Biology

, Volume 152, Issue 3, pp 677–686 | Cite as

Survival of microscopic stages of a perennial kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) from the center and the southern extreme of its range in the Northern Hemisphere after exposure to simulated El Niño stress

  • Lydia B. LadahEmail author
  • José A. Zertuche-González
Research Article


Many organisms survive stressful conditions through a tolerant life history stage. The life history known as the alternation of generations is typical of temperate kelps, producing diploid macroscopic stages, and both haploid and diploid microscopic stages, with the haploid stages thought to be stress tolerant. The survival of microscopic stages of the giant kelp Macrocystispyrifera during El Niño has been suggested, yet has never been tested. This mechanism could be critical for population persistence, particularly at the southern limit of the range in the Northern Hemisphere, which is greatly impacted by El Niño conditions. The purpose of this study was to determine if microscopic stages of giant kelp could survive and recover from El Niño-type conditions and whether those from a population near its southern limit were more tolerant than a population at the center of its range. Microscopic stages were exposed to a laboratory simulation of potential El Niño conditions (high temperature, with and without light and nitrate) for 8 weeks and then allowed to recover at optimal conditions (low temperature and high nitrate) for 8 weeks, while controls were left at optimal conditions the entire 16 weeks test period. Haploid developmental stages from both populations survived and recovered from stressful conditions with no population level effect, suggesting haploid stress-tolerance may be widespread. The more advanced the developmental stage, and the presence of nitrate, resulted in significantly greater recovery for haploids. Yet, none of these stages were able to go on to produce sporophytes, whereas all controls did. There was a large population-level effect for diploids, however, with only microscopic diploid stages (embryonic sporophytes) from the southern-limit population recovering from El Niño simulated stress, suggesting ecotypic adaptation for microscopic sporophytes. Diploid recovery was significantly greater with light. We propose that the diploid stage is the most likely to survive and recover after El Niño conditions, as it would avoid obligate egg and sperm encounters after the stress period. The survivorship of the microscopic diploid in a seed bank analogue may be how the isolated southern-limit populations are able to recover after mass disappearance during El Niño.


Stress Exposure Life History Stage Microscopic Stage Southern Limit Kelp Forest 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The companies of Productos del Pacifico and Abulones Cultivados, the Fishing Cooperative in Bahia Tortugas, and the Fishing Cooperative Estaban Cantu assisted with field research logistics and permits. Diving would not have been possible without assistance from J. Guzman and R. Bermudez. Marco Aurelio provided laboratory assistance. The authors acknowledge funding and support from the UABC (4078-22) and SIMACCONACYT (970106007) grants to J.A.Z., and UC MEXUSCONACYT awards, IAI-EPCOR (CRN-062), AMELIS-CONACYT (J37689/V), and SEP-CONACYT (J50046) research grants to L.B.L. Special thanks to Dr. C. Barilloti, Dr. A. Cabello, and P. Chagoya.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lydia B. Ladah
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • José A. Zertuche-González
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biological OceanographyCICESEEnsenadaMexico
  2. 2.San DiegoUSA
  3. 3.Instituto de Investigaciones OceanológicasUniversidad Autónoma de Baja CaliforniaEnsenadaMexico

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