Assessment and Catalog of Benthic Marine Algae from the Alaska Peninsula

March 04, 2019

This publication represents one aspect of a larger collaborative effort to survey coastal resources along the Alaska Peninsula during May of 2016. Aerial imaging surveys were conducted for ShoreZone coastal habitat mapping and ground surveys for detailed assessments of geomorphology and marine species assemblages. As a result of this effort an incredible amount of baseline information has been gathered for this remote and poorly studied stretch of coastline. This assessment and collection of benthic marine algae including an extensive digital catalog is the only one of its kind to date and will be an important resource for researchers and resource managers. Support for this body of work was provided by Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service - Alaska Fisheries Science Center in conjunction with the larger ShoreZone efforts funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Alaska Outer Continental Shelf Region (BOEM Contract: M15PC00008).

Baseline habitat assessment and collection of benthic marine algae from the Alaska Peninsula was undertaken in May 2016 in association with ShoreZone coastal habitat mapping activities in the region. Of the estimated 82,000 km of shoreline in Alaska (Cook et al. 2018), a remote section along the Alaska Peninsula remained un-surveyed by the Alaska ShoreZone program until 2016. Prior to this assessment, there have been no comprehensive surveys by scientific experts of this region, resulting in a great deal of interest to get on the ground and identify intertidal species assemblages, especially benthic marine algae.

Historically, two areas in the region (Kukak Bay and the Shumagin Islands—just to the east and west of the areas we assessed) were visited by the Harriman Alaska Expedition in 1899, and seaweed collections were made and published by De Alton Saunders (1901); the Shumagin Islands were also visited by the University of California Botanical Expedition to Alaska, 1899, and those records were published by Setchell & Gardner (1903). [Records of specimens collected during these expeditions can be found at the Alaska Seaweed Database (https://db.botany.ubc.ca/asd/specimen) and through the Macroalgal Herbarium Portal (http://macroalgae.org/portal/index.php).] Also, several sites in the region (Cape Nukshak, Spectacle Island) were visited during OCSEAP (Outer Continental Shelf Environmental Assessment Program) surveys in the 1970s, and a handful of specimens collected during those surveys can be found in the Alaska Seaweed Database and the Macroalgal Herbarium Portal under ALAJ (University of Alaska Southeast); some of these were noted in Lindstrom (1977). Regions to the east (Cook Inlet, Kenai Fjords, Prince William Sound, Yakutat Foreshore, and Southeast Alaska) and to the west (Cold Bay west to Attu Island, Aleutian Islands) have also been fairly intensively sampled for a variety of projects (Hind et al. 2014, Lindeberg and Lindstrom 2009, Lindstrom 2006, 2008a, 2008b, 2009, Lindstrom et al. 1999, 2011, 2015), andWynne (2009) chronicled algal collections in Alaska from the earliest Russian explorers to around 1900. Moreover, recent utilization of molecular sequencing in identifying benthic marine algae has revealed significant cryptic diversity in many genera so that new and comprehensive collections are needed in order to adequately characterize the biota of a region (Lindstrom 2008a. 2008b, Lindstrom et al. 2011, 2015, Saunders 2008). Thus, the region surveyed in May 2016 represented a significant gap in information on species diversity and distribution, voucher specimens, and genetic material needed to understand the species of benthic marine algae and their biogeography in Alaska.

Background: The Alaska ShoreZone program started imaging and mapping the State’s coastline in 2001. ShoreZone is a standardized imaging and habitat mapping system of the coastal zone that produces an integrated dataset rich in imagery along with a searchable inventory of physical and biological features of the intertidal and nearshore zones (Harper and Morris 2014). ShoreZone is one of the few mapping systems that has a rigorous classification scheme for biological features known as biobands—species assemblages of coastal biota that are bandforming in cross-shore elevations associated with characteristic wave energies and substrate types. These biobands are often named after the dominant species that gives them their character (e.g. Rockweed Bioband, named after the brown alga Fucus distichus). Fucus may dominate a Rockweed bioband but the associated species within this bioband can vary at regional scales, something ShoreZone cannot resolve from aerial mapping. To address this issue, the Alaska ShoreZone program supports a less well-known activity that conducts baseline information gathering on the ground known as Shore Station surveys.

Last updated by Alaska Fisheries Science Center on 04/02/2019