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  Habitats - The Great Barrier Reef    

Kelp Forests

4. Species Composition - Producers

The major species of algae that form the tallest kelp forests on the Tasmanian and Victorian coast is Giant Kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, the same species as found in California, New Zealand and South America. These sea floor. Giant String Kelp, Macrocystis angustifolia grows to around 10 metres in waters from 0 -10m depth and is more common in Victoria.

Both species are characterised by rope like stipes or stems that connect the leaf like blades, in the sunlit surface waters, to the root like holdfast attaching the plants to the rocks below. They also have elongated airfilled bladders that provide buoyancy and keep the plants upright in the water column.


Common Kelp - Ecklonia radiata

They have a complex life cycle and show seasonal growth during winter and spring and degenerate summer and autumn to grow again the following winter. During late spring these pants can grow at an amazing rate of over 30 cm's per day.

A number of other species of algae also form forest like in southern Australia. Common Kelp, (Ecklonia radiata) is a species that is often found in large quantities after storms in piles along the beach and is found from W.A. to N.S.W. This is a much smaller species that grows to around 2m but inhabits a wider range of conditions and can grow down to over 40m.


Other forest forming species include species from other large brown algal genera including Phyllospora (crayweed), Cystophora (bubble weed), and Sargassum.

On highly exposed rocky coasts in the cool waters of the southern ocean another species of brown algae called Bull Kelp (Durvillaea pottatorium) dominates. This species also can live intertidally where there are usually large waves to keep in moist between the tides. It is particularly common on highly exposed and is a feature of many wave swept rocky outcrops in the Southern Ocean This species is commercially collected and processed for alginates from islands in Bass Strait.

Beneath the kelps there are many other algae that grow on the rock surfaces. These include a number of pink and red encrusting coralline algae that cover most rock surfaces beneath the kelp, as well as other species that tolerate low light conditions.

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