The deep-water macroalgal assemblage was described at 14 sites off the central California coast during 1999 and 2000 from SCUBA and remotely operated vehicle sampling. The stipitate kelp Pleurophycus gardneri Setchell & Gardner, previously thought to be rare in the region, was abundant from 30 to 45 m, forming kelp beds below the well-known giant kelp forests. Macroalgae typically formed three broadly overlapping zones usually characterized by one or a few visually dominant taxa: 1) the upper “Pleurophycus zone” (30–45 m) of stipitate kelps and Desmarestia spp. with a high percent cover of corallines, low cover of uncalcified red algae, and rare green algae; 2) a middle “Maripelta zone” (40–55 m) with other uncalcified red algae and infrequent corallines and green algae; and 3) a zone (55–75 m) of infrequent patches of nongeniculate coralline algae. The green alga Palmophyllum umbracola Nelson & Ryan, not previously reported from the Northeast Pacific, was found over the entire geographical range sampled from 35 to 54 m. Yearround profiles of water column irradiance revealed unexpectedly clear water with an average K0 of 0.106m1. The low percent surface irradiance found at the average lower macroalgal depth limits in this study (0.56% for brown algae, 0.12% for uncalcified red algae, and 0.01% for nongeniculate coralline algae) and lack of large grazers suggest that light controls the lower distributional limits. The ubiquitous distribution, perennial nature, and similar lower depth limits of deep-water macroalgal assemblages at all sites suggest that these assemblages are a common persistent part of the benthic biota in this region.
Algae (Macro, Turf and Crustose Coralline)