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Ecological performance differs between range centre and trailing edge populations of a cold-water kelp: implications for estimating net primary productivity

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Pip MooreORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2020, The Author(s). Kelp forests are extensive, widely distributed and highly productive. However, despite their importance, reliable estimates of net primary productivity (NPP) are currently unknown for most species and regions. In particular, how performance and subsequent NPP change throughout a species range is lacking. Here, we attempted to resolve this by examining growth and performance of the boreal kelp, Laminaria digitata, from range centre and trailing edge regions in the United Kingdom. During the peak growth season (March/April), range-centre individuals were up to three times heavier and accumulated biomass twice as fast as their trailing-edge counterparts. This was not apparent during the reduced growth season (August/September), when populations within both regions had similar biomass profiles. In total, annual NPP estimates were considerably lower for trailing-edge (181 ± 34 g C m−2 year−1) compared to range-centre (344 ± 33 g C m−2 year−1) populations. Our first-order UK estimates of total standing stock and NPP for L. digitata suggest this species makes a significant contribution to coastal carbon cycling. Further work determining the ultimate fate of this organic matter is needed to understand the overall contribution of kelp populations to regional and global carbon cycles. Nevertheless, we highlight the need for large-scale sampling across multiple populations and latitudes to accurately evaluate kelp species’ contributions to coastal carbon cycling.

Publication metadata

Author(s): King NG, Moore PJ, Pessarrodona A, Burrows MT, Porter J, Bue M, Smale DA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Marine Biology

Year: 2020

Volume: 167

Issue: 9

Online publication date: 28/08/2020

Acceptance date: 22/07/2020

Date deposited: 09/12/2020

ISSN (print): 0025-3162

ISSN (electronic): 1432-1793

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s00227-020-03743-5


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Funder referenceFunder name
PCIG10- GA-2011-303685