Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
REVIEW

Calcified macroalgae – critical to coastal ecosystems and vulnerable to change: a review

W. A. Nelson

National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research, Private Bag 14-901, Wellington 6241, New Zealand. Email: w.nelson@niwa.co.nz

Marine and Freshwater Research 60(8) 787-801 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF08335
Submitted: 3 December 2008  Accepted: 8 February 2009   Published: 27 August 2009

Abstract

Calcified macroalgae are distributed in marine habitats from polar to tropical latitudes and from intertidal shores to the deepest reaches of the euphotic zone. These algae play critical ecological roles including being key to a range of invertebrate recruitment processes, functioning as autogenic ecosystem engineers through provision of three-dimensional habitat structure, as well as contributing critical structural strength in coral reef ecosystems. Calcified macroalgae contribute significantly to the deposition of carbonates in coastal environments. These organisms are vulnerable to human-induced changes resulting from land and coastal development, such as altered patterns of sedimentation, nutrient enrichment through sewage and agricultural run-off, and are affected by coastal dredging and aquaculture. The consequences of increasing sea surface temperatures and fundamental changes in the carbon chemistry of seawater due to CO2 emissions from anthropogenic activities will have serious impacts on calcifying macroalgae. It is not yet understood how interactions between a range of variables acting at local and global scales will influence the viability of calcifying macroalgae and associated ecosystems. Research is urgently needed on all aspects of the taxonomy, biology and functional ecology of calcifying macroalgae. Without an understanding of the species present, measurement of change and understanding species-specific responses will not be possible.

Additional keywords: calcified green algae, carbonate deposition, Corallinales, ecosystem engineers, invertebrate recruitment, maerl, ocean acidification, rhodoliths.


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