The footprint of continental-scale ocean currents on the biogeography of seaweeds
Wernberg, T and Thomsen, MS and Connell, SD and Russell, BD and Waters, JM and Zuccarello, GC and Kraft, GT and Sanderson, C and West, JA and Gurgel, CFD, The footprint of continental-scale ocean currents on the biogeography of seaweeds, PLoS One, 8, (11) Article e80168. ISSN 1932-6203 (2013) [Refereed Article]
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Explaining spatial patterns of biological organisation remains a central challenge for biogeographic studies. In marine systems, large-scale ocean currents can modify broad-scale biological patterns by simultaneously connecting environmental (e.g. temperature, salinity and nutrients) and biological (e.g. amounts and types of dispersed propagules) properties of adjacent and distant regions. For example, steep environmental gradients and highly variable, disrupted flow should lead to heterogeneity in regional communities and high species turnover. In this study, we investigated the possible imprint of the Leeuwin (LC) and East Australia (EAC) Currents on seaweed communities across ~7,000 km of coastline in temperate Australia. These currents flow poleward along the west and east coasts of Australia, respectively, but have markedly different characteristics. We tested the hypothesis that, regional seaweed communities show serial change in the direction of current flow and that, because the LC is characterised by a weaker temperature gradient and more un-interrupted along-shore flow compared to the EAC, then coasts influenced by the LC have less variable seaweed communities and lower species turnover across regions than the EAC. This hypothesis was supported. We suggest that this pattern is likely caused by a combination of seaweed temperature tolerances and current-driven dispersal. In conclusion, our findings support the idea that the characteristics of continental-scale currents can influence regional community organisation, and that the coupling of ocean currents and marine biological structure is a general feature that transcends taxa and spatial scales.
East Australian Current, banthic marine algae, latitudinal gradient, beta diversity, North America, interidal invertebrates, species richness, subtidal habitat, vascular plants, temperature