Marine Biology

, Volume 151, Issue 5, pp 1941–1949 | Cite as

Effects of ocean temperature on the southern range limits of two understory kelps, Pterygophora californica and Eisenia arborea, at multiple life-stages

  • Paul G. MatsonEmail author
  • Matthew S. Edwards
Research Article


Environmental factors have long been shown to influence species distributions, with range limits often resulting from environmental stressors exceeding organism tolerances. However, these abiotic factors may differentially affect species with multiple life-history stages. Between September 2004 and January 2006, the roles of temperature and nutrient availability in explaining the southern distributions of two understory kelps, Pterygophora californica and Eisenia arborea (Phaeophyceae, Laminariales), were investigated along the coast of California, USA and the Baja California Peninsula, Mexico, by limiting either: (a) tissue nitrogen uptake and storage by adult sporophytes during periods of elevated temperature, and/or (b) production of embryonic sporophytes by microscopic gametophytes. Results suggest that while adult sporophytes of both species are tolerant of high temperatures and low nutrients, reproduction by their microscopic stages is not. Specifically, while E. arborea produced embryonic sporophytes at both 12 and 18°C, temperatures commonly observed throughout the southern portion of its range, P. californica produced sporophytes at 12 but not at 18°C. As a result, it appears that the southern distribution of P. californica, which ends in northern Baja California, Mexico, may be limited by temperature acting on its microscopic stages. In contrast, the ability of E. arborea’s microscopic and adult stages to tolerate elevated temperatures allows it to persist in the warmer southern waters of Baja California, as well as to the north along the California coast where both species co-occur.


Ocean Temperature Microscopic Stage Bottom Temperature Southern Limit Baja California Peninsula 
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.



We thank L. Carney, D. Cie, B. Critser, S. Fejtek, C. Loflen, T. Mai, R. Mothokakobo, A. Steyers, B. Stidium, M. Tamburro, and L. Thurn for their assistance in both the field and in the laboratory. This study is part of P. Matson’s MS thesis. Funding for this work was provided by grants to M. Edwards provided by the National Geographic Society (7540-03) and National Atmospheric and Space Administration (IDS/03-0000-04447).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologySan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA

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