Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 26 Issue 03

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Volume 26, No. 3
Pages 114 - 123


Multiple Sources and Forms of Nitrogen Sustain Year-Round Kelp Growth on the Inner Continental Shelf of the Santa Barbara Channel

By Mark A. Brzezinski , Daniel C. Reed , Shannon Harrer, Andrew Rassweiler, John M. Melack , Blair M. Goodridge, and Jenifer E. Dugan 
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Article Abstract

Forests of the giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera found on coastal rocky reefs lack the large reservoirs for nutrient storage found in many terrestrial environments. Supporting their high year-round growth rates requires a continuous supply of nitrogen. Complementary timing of nutrient supply associated with the physical processes that deliver nitrate to reefs largely achieves this goal, but modeling studies indicate that the magnitude of nitrate delivery is inadequate to support the measured nitrogen demand of kelp forests during summer. Ammonium, from sediment efflux and excretion by reef consumers, likely fills the deficit. Together, the varied sources of inorganic nitrogen supplied to kelp forests support their high growth rates throughout the year. Kelp compensates for diminished nitrogen supply during summer by decreasing tissue nitrogen content, resulting in a doubling of kelp C:N ratios.


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