Keywords: biodiversity, community structures, giant kelp, Macrocystis forests, kelp forests, management areas, exploitation areas, benthic resources, MEABR, Southern Chile, sustainable coastal development, Macrocystis pyrifera, sustainable management, sustainable development, sustainability, fisheries administration, coastal communities
The ecological importance of Macrocystis pyrifera (Phaeophyta) forests towards a sustainable management and exploitation of Chilean coastal benthic co–management areas
The giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera forms dense aggregations in rocky subtidal areas along the Chilean coast. Seasonal abundance of seaweed and invertebrate populations associated with kelp forests and control sites without forests were monitored for two years in Southern Chile. Monitoring took place in areas under co–management fisheries administration provision entitled 'Management and exploitation areas for benthic resources (MEABR)' where several species that are under commercial exploitation have to be monitored. This study provides evidence indicating the importance of giant kelp in the maintenance of exploited organisms and biodiversity in general. The results showed that kelp influences the abundance of other macroalgae and benthic invertebrates, including species exploited by the local fisheries. Kelp size and density varied seasonally, generating cyclical variation in habitat, species composition and community structure. A consequence of the exploitation and depletion of Macrocystis forests will be a decrease in the abundance of other economically important species and therefore the sustainable development of coastal communities may be compromised.