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A Functional Group Approach to the Structure of Algal-Dominated Communities

Robert S. Steneck and Megan N. Dethier
Oikos
Vol. 69, No. 3 (Apr., 1994), pp. 476-498
Published by: Wiley on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos
DOI: 10.2307/3545860
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3545860
Page Count: 23
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
A Functional Group Approach to the Structure of Algal-Dominated Communities
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Abstract

We suggest that relatively few species attributes are of overriding importance to the structure of benthic marine algal communities and that these are often shared among taxonomically distant species. Data from the western North Atlantic, eastern North Pacific and Caribbean suggest that patterns in algal biomass, diversity and dominance are strikingly convergent when examined at a functional group level relative to the productivity and herbivore-induced disturbance potentials of the environment. We present a simple graphical model that provides a way to predict algal community composition based on these two environmental axes. This predictability stems from algal functional groups having characteristic rates of mass-specific productivity, thallus longevity and canopy height that cause them to "behave" in similar ways. Further, herbivore-induced disturbances have functionally similar impacts on most morphologically and anatomically similar algae regardless of their taxonomic or geographic affinities. Strategies identified for marine algae parallel those of a terrestrial scheme with the addition of disturbance-tolerant plants that characteristically coexist with and even thrive under high levels of disturbance. Algal-dominated communities, when examined at the functional group level, appear to be much more temporally stable and predictable than when examined at the species level.

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