An Assessment of the Influence of Host Species, Age, and Thallus Part on Kelp-Associated Diatoms
Diatom community composition and abundances on different thallus parts of adult and juvenile specimens of Eckloniamaxima and Laminariapallida were examined in False Bay, South Africa, using light and scanning electron microscopy. Altogether, 288 thallus portions were analysed. Diatom abundances ranged from 0 to 404 cells mm−2 and were generally higher on E. maxima and juvenile thalli than L. pallida and adult specimens. Moreover, diatom abundances differed between the various thallus parts,
... thallus parts, being highest on the upper blade and lowest on the primary blade. A total of 48 diatom taxa belonging to 28 genera were found. Gomphoseptatum Medlin, Nagumoea Witkowski and Kociolek, Cocconeis Ehrenberg, and Navicula Bory were the most frequently occurring genera, being present in 84%, 65%, 62.5%, and 45% of the analysed samples, respectively. Among these, Cocconeis and Gomphoseptatum were the most abundant, contributing 50% and 27% of total diatom cells counted collectively across all samples. Permutational multivariate analysis of variance (PERMANOVA) revealed that all investigated main factors (kelp species and age and thallus part), as well as their two- and three-way interactions, except for the interaction between the host species and age, were significant. The high residual variance (72%) indicated that the sum of other unexamined factors contributed the largest component of the variation observed in the kelp-associated diatom communities, and grazing and possible defence strategies utilised by kelps are proposed as processes playing an important role in the structuring of epiphytic diatom communities. Possible endophytism of tissue-boring diatoms colonizing both kelp species is briefly discussed.