Evaluating potential cascading impacts of sea star wasting disease on top-down grazer regulation in kelp forests

Start/End: July, 2015 to June, 2016

Previous studies in California have documented significant correlations between predator densities, increased herbivore (i.e. grazer) abundance, and subsequent decreases in macroalgal or seagrass abundance. Since 2013, sea star wasting disease along the California coast has reduced the main predators of Chlorostoma species, herbivorous ocean gastropods. This project will investigate the potential of Chlorostoma spp. to impact kelp forest and macroalgal abundance in areas with and without sea star wasting disease, by characterizing their abundance, diet, energy allocation, habitat use and predator density. PhD student Lynne Wetmore, SDSU, will conduct field sampling. Results will be shared through peer reviewed publication and professional conferences, and may be used to inform management of California’s kelp forest ecosystems.