The importance of having two species instead of one in kelp management: The lessonia nigrescens species complex

Florence Tellier, J. M.Alonso Vega, Bernardo R. Broitman, Julio A. Vasquez, Myriam Valero, Sylvain Faugeron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Natural resource management requires extensive knowledge of the biology of the organisms and their responses to ecological and anthropogenic processes. While species are commonly used as management units, the presence of cryptic species - morphol ogically indistinguishable, but with different biological haracteristics - may hinder the design of appropriate management and conservation measures. Thus, correctly assigning individuals to species is of particular importance and challenges current manag ement approaches in seaweeds, which are highly plastic morphologically. After a synthesis of the species definitions, we show an example of the challenges of managing cryptic species with the Chilean kelp Lessonia nigrescens. We review phylogenetic, biological and ecological evidence indicating that this economically important intertidal species is composed of two cryptic species. In the face of increasing global demand for kelp, an intensified impact of harvesting pressure is observed around the region where both cryptic species find their northern and southern edge of their geographic distributions, around 30°S. We recommend special management strategies targeting harvested areas around such range edge populations. Our synthesis highlights the importance of having two species that are ecologically and genetically different. In addition, the cryptic species may diverge in biochemical composition, opening new perspectives for the alginates' industry. The capacity of conservation and management programs to correctly distinguish new species is of particular importance as numerous cryptic species are constantly being discovered in seaweeds, including kelps.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-465
Number of pages11
JournalCahiers de Biologie Marine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2011


  • Brown seaweed
  • Cryptic species
  • Lessonia
  • Resource management
  • Species concept


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