Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 97, Issue 11, pp 1253–1263 | Cite as

Habitat characteristics can influence fish assemblages in high latitude kelp forests

  • Terril P. Efird
  • Brenda Konar


Kelp forests are patchy fish-associated habitats, which can vary greatly in their size, foundation species, and several physical habitat attributes. The structure of fish assemblages can vary with these characteristics and with the location of the assemblage within the forest, i.e. edges versus interiors. This study quantified the biological and physical heterogeneity within different sized kelp forests and identified which factors are important in structuring the associated fish assemblages. Fish and habitat surveys were conducted at the edge and interiors of ten kelp forests of varying sizes in Kachemak Bay, south-central Alaska. Fish assemblage structure was not correlated with the species composition of surface canopy forming foundation kelps (Nereocystis leutkeana and Eualaria fistulosa) or with kelp forest size. Instead, it correlated with the abundances of two understory foundation kelps (Agarum clathratum and Saccharina latissima), substratum rugosity, and water depth. Together these benthic attributes explained 53.6 % of the fish assemblage variability. Additionally, significantly different fish assemblages were found at edge compared to interior locations with the relative abundance of seven species (Artedius fenestralis, Ammodytes hexapterus, Blepsias cirrhosis, Gadus macrocephalus, Hexagrammos stelleri, Pholis laeta, and Sebastes melanops) explaining 91.4 % of the variability. This study highlights the importance of habitat characteristics such as understory foundation species, substratum rugosity, water depth and location within a patch on the variability of fish assemblages in high latitude kelp forests.


Kelp forest Fish Patch dynamics 



We thank A Seitz, M Stekoll, K Iken, and two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on this research. Field support was provided by N Stewart, M Deiman, and M Schuster. Logistic support was provided by M and C Geagle and H Pedersen at the Kasitsna Bay Laboratory. Funding for this project was provided by the Rasmuson Fisheries Research Center and the Frances & Alfred Baker Scholarship. This research was conducted under UAF Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee protocol #09-26.


  1. Abookire AA, Duffy-Anderson J, Jump C (2007) Habitat associations and diet of young-of-the-year Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus) near Kodiak, Alaska. Mar Biol 150:713–726CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andrews KS, Anderson TW (2004) Habitat-dependent recruitment of two temperate reef fishes at multiple spatial scales. Mar Ecol-Prog Ser 277:231–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Angel AF, Ojeda FP (2001) Structure and trophic organization of subtidal fish assemblages on the northern Chilean coast: the effect of habitat complexity. Mar Ecol-Prog Ser 217:81–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Armstrong RH (1996) Alaska’s fish: a guide to selected species. Alaska Northwest Books, AnchorageGoogle Scholar
  5. Bender D, Contreras T, Fahrig L (1998) Habitat loss and population decline: a meta-analysis of the patch size effect. Ecology 79:517–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beukers JS, Jones GP (1998) Habitat complexity modifies the impact of piscivores on a coral reef fish population. Oecologia 114:50–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blackburn JE, Anderson PJ (1997) Pacific sand lance growth, seasonal availability, movements, catch variability, and food in the Kodiak-Cook Inlet area of Alaska, International Syposium on the Role of Forage Fishes in Marine Ecosystems. Alaska Sea Grant College Program, Anchorage, Alaska, USAGoogle Scholar
  8. Bodkin JL (1986) Fish assemblages in Macrocystis and Nereocystis kelp forests off central California. Fish B-NOAA 84:799–808Google Scholar
  9. Bodkin JL (1988) Effects of kelp forest removal on associated fish assemblages in central California. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 117:227–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carr MH (1989) Effects of macroalgal assemblages on the recruitment of temperate zone reef fishes. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 126:59–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clarke K, Warwick R (2001) Change in marine communities: an approach to statistical analysis and interpretation, 2nd edn. PRIMER-E, PlymouthGoogle Scholar
  12. Clarke K, Gorley R (2006) PRIMER v6: user manual/tutorial. PRIMER-E, PlymouthGoogle Scholar
  13. Cole RG, Davey NK, Carbines GD, Stewart R (2012) Fish-habitat associations in New Zealand: geographical contrasts. Mar Ecol-Prog Ser 450:131–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Connell SD, Jones GP (1991) The influence of habitat complexity on postrecruitment processes in a temperate reef fish population. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 151:271–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dayton PK (1971) Competition, disturbance, and community organization: the provision and subsequent utilization of space in a rocky intertidal community. Ecol Monogr 41:351–389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dayton PK (1985) Ecology of kelp communities. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 16:215–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dill LM (1990) Distance-to-cover and the escape decisions of an African cichlid fish, Melanochromis chipokae. Environ Biol Fish 27:147–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ebeling AW, Laur DR (1985) The influence of plant cover on surfperch abundance at an offshore temperate reef. Environ Biol Fish 12:169–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Edgar GJ, Barrett NS, Morton AJ, Samson CR (2004) Effects of algal canopy clearance on plant, Fish and macroinvertebrate communities on eastern Tasmanian reefs. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 312:67–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fahrig L (2003) Effects of habitat fragmentation on biodiversity. Annu Rev Ecol Evol S 34:487–515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gaines SD, Roughgarden J (1987) Fish in offshore kelp forests affect recruitment to intertidal barnacle populations. Science 235:479–481PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hamilton J, Konar B (2007) Implications of substrate complexity and kelp variability for south-central Alaskan nearshore fish communities. Fish B-NOAA 105:189–196Google Scholar
  23. Hixon MA, Beets JP (1993) Predation, prey refuges, and the structure of coral-reef fish assemblages. Ecol Monogr 63:77–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jelbart JE, Ross PM, Connolly RM (2007) Patterns of small fish distributions in seagrass beds in a temperate Australian estuary. J Mar Biol Ass U K 87:1297–1307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Johnson MP, Frost NJ, Mosley MWJ, Roberts MF, Hawkins SJ (2003a) The area-independent effects of habitat complexity on biodiversity vary between regions. Ecol Lett 6:126–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Johnson SW, Murphy ML, Csepp DJ (2003b) Distribution, habitat, and behavior of rockfishes, Sebastes spp., in nearshore waters of southeastern Alaska: observations from a remotely operated vehicle. Environ Biol Fish 66:259–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jorgensen SJ, Kaplan DM, Klimley AP, Morgan SG, O’Farrell MR, Botsford LW (2006) Limited movement in blue rockfish Sebastes mystinus: internal structure of home range. Mar Ecol-Prog Ser 327:157–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Levin PS (1993) Habitat structure, conspecific presence and spatial variation in the recruitment of a temperate reef fish. Oecologia 94:176–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lima SL, Dill LM (1990) Behavioral decisions made under the risk of predation: a review and prospectus. Can J Zoolog 68:619–640CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Love M, Carr M, Haldorson L (1991) The ecology of substrate-associated juveniles of the genus Sebastes. Environ Biol Fish 30:225–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Love MS, Yoklavich M, Thorsteinson L (2002) The rockfishes of the northeast Pacific. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  32. MacArthur RH (1965) Patterns of species diversity. Biol Rev 40:510–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Napazakov V (2010) The diet of white-spotted greenling Hexagrammos stelleri (Hexagrammidae) on the West Kamchatka shelf. J Ichthyol 50:100–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Öhman MC, Rajasuriya A (1998) Relationships between habitat structure and fish communities on coral and sandstone reefs. Environ Biol Fish 53:19–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Opdam P, Wascher D (2004) Climate change meets habitat fragmentation: linking landscape and biogeographical scale levels in research and conservation. Biol Conserv 117:285–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pérez-Matus A, Shima JS (2010) Disentangling the effects of macroalgae on the abundance of temperate reef fishes. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 388:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pérez-Matus A, Ferry-Graham LA, Cea A, Vasquez JA (2007) Community structure of temperate reef fishes in kelp-dominated subtidal habitats of northern Chile. Mar Fresh Res 58:1069–1085CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rangeley RW, Kramer DL (1998) Density-dependent antipredator tactics and habitat selection in juvenile pollock. Ecology 79:943–952CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Reisewitz S, Estes J, Simenstad C (2006) Indirect food web interactions: sea otters and kelp forest fishes in the Aleutian archipelago. Oecologia 146:623–631PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Scott WB, Scott MG (1988) Atlantic fishes of Canada. University of Toronto Press, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  41. Siddon EC, Siddon CE, Stekoll MS (2008) Community level effects of Nereocystis luetkeana in southeastern Alaska. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 361:8–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Smith TM, Hindell JS, Jenkins GP, Connolly RM (2008) Edge effects on fish associated with seagrass and sand patches. Mar Ecol-Prog Ser 359:203–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Smith TM, Hindell JS, Jenkins GP, Connolly RM (2010) Seagrass patch size affects fish responses to edges. J Anim Ecol 79:275–281PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Smith TM, Hindell JS, Jenkins GP, Connoll RM, Keough MJ (2011) Edge effects in patchy seagrass landscapes: The role of predation in determining fish distribution. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 399:8–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Tupper M, Boutilier R (1997) Effects of habitat on settlement, growth, predation risk and survival of a temperate reef fish. Mar Ecol-Prog Ser 151:225–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Villegas MJ, Laudien J, Siefeld W, Arntz WE (2007) Macrocystis integrifolia and Lessonia trabeculata (Laminariales; Phaeophyceae) kelp habitat structures and associated macrobenthic community off northern Chile. Helgol Mar Res 62:S33–S43. doi: 10.1007/s10152-007-0096-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Vonk JA, Christianen MJA, Stapel J (2010) Abundance, edge effect, and seasonality of fauna in mixed-species seagrass meadows in southwest Sulawesi, Indonesia. Mar Biol Res 6:282–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wentworth CK (1922) A scale of grade and class terms for clastic sediments. J Geol 30:377–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wong MYL, Munday PL, Jones GP (2005) Habitat patch size, facultative monogamy and sex change in a coral-dwelling fish, Caracanthus unipinna. Environ Biol Fish 74:141–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Fisheries and Ocean SciencesUniversity of AlaskaFairbanksUSA

Personalised recommendations