R-18-02 Reconciling multiple stakeholders in rockweed habitats: Science to help achieve the intersecting goals of a fishery and coastal wildlife

Amanda Klemmer
Assistant Research Professor of Food Web Ecology

University of Maine


Brain Olsen

University of Maine


Jessica Muhlin

Maine Maritime Academy


Aaron Strong

University of Maine


Hannah Webber

Schoodic Institute


Coastal ecoystems support two of Maine’s largest economic activities: fishing and tourism. Sustaining both activities into the future depends on how we manage multiple threats, including changing environmental conditions, an influx of unfamiliar nuisance species such as green crabs, rising sea levels, and continued use of marine resources. Understanding associated food webs and ecology of desired resources will be key to successful management. Rockweed harvesting, which as increased in the last decade, removes basal resources, potentially altering habitat structure and affecting other parts of the food web including birds. The combination of economic value, potential conservation impacts, and public interest make rockweed habitats a unique system to study food-web dynamics that support ecosystem services in marine, intertidal environments.


This project will seek to understand the role of rockweed (and rockweed harvesting) in intertidal-invertebrate-bird food webs. Beginning in February 2018, researchers will survey rockweed habitats along the Maine coast, collecting data on biomass, vegetative cover, invertebrates, birds, and environmental conditions such as temperature and light. Working with harvesters, they will design some experiments to evaluate changes in the rockweed beds before and after harvest.


The researchers will also engage stakeholders throughout the project, with a symposium in 2020 to share research results and information about sustaining intertidal food webs (a follow-up to the 2010 rockweed symposium). This project will address a gap in our knowledge about rockweed that has thusfar contributed to controversy and conflict about the impacts of harvesting and the role of rockweed in the coastal ecosystem.


Two-year project, 2018-2020

Sea Grant funds $149,953