The Change in Macroalgal Assemblages through the Saldanha Bay/Langebaan Lagoon Ecosystem (South Africa)

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Botanica Marina

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Saldanha Bay and Langebaan Lagoon form together one of the few sheltered habitats within the Benguela Marine Province; a wide gradient in environmental factors is found here. The West Coast National Park was established to protect this unique ecosystem, but at the same time an industrially expanding harbour marks this area. In an effort to understand the biological composition of the Saldanha/Langebaan ecosystem, the intertidal macroalgal assemblages were studied in relation to the relatively well-known South African West Coast flora. Three distinct floral entities were identified using various analytical techniques (similarity coefficients, CCA and TWINSPAN): (i) the species poor, though distinct, salt marshes; (ii) the Lagoon sites; and (iii) the Bay and West Coast sites. The transition between the latter two is located at the mouth of the Lagoon. The species richness of the Bay/West Coast entity is larger than in the Lagoon. The change in algal composition can be explained in terms of the environmental variables of which wave exposure is the most significant. Other important environmental parameters are water surface temperature and salinity, which were found to be negatively correlated with wave exposure. Biogeographical affinities of the different algal entities of the Bay/Lagoon system were also determined in relation to the entire South African shoreline. The Bay/West Coast entity supports a typical West Coast flora, with some noticeable effects of uplift of subtidal species into the infralittoral fringe and morphological variation in less exposed areas. The algal flora of the Lagoon is also dominated by West Coast species, but is typified by species characteristic of sheltered habitats, and with a number of species which otherwise only occur on the geographically distant South Coast (east of Cape Agulhas). The algae from the salt marshes occur widely in tropical mangroves and warm temperate salt marshes.