Boulder Patch Research


The first studies of the Boulder Patch began in summer 1978 under the OCSEAP program. Earliest work focused on the collection of kelp and the associated invertebrate fauna at what became a long-term study site, DS-11. Several monitoring sites were added in 1984 as part of a baseline environmental assessment program funded by British Petroleum Exploration, Inc. In more recent years, with funding from BOEM, researchers began long-term monitoring of temperature, salinity, pH, water level, bottom currents, and irradiance. These physical measurements complement biological research on kelp growth, faunal and floral diversity, biomass, and rates of kelp sporeling recolonization and establishment. In addition, concerted efforts are underway to thoroughly annotate the algal species composition of the Boulder Patch with phycologist Dr. Bob Wilce (above left, with Ken Dunton). Updates to the algal species list are also undergoing revision using genomic methods.

Topics of Current Research

  • Use long term, year-round data of underwater light, salinity, temperature and currents to understand the enviromental factors that 1) structure the benthic community, and 2) determine Laminaria solidungula growth and abundance
  • Through population genetic analysis, describe how the Boulder Patch population of Laminaria solidungula may be connected to other Arctic kelp beds
  • Determine how freshwater inputs affect the distribution of crustose coralline algae
  • Revise and update species composition of the algal flora and fauna of the community for species diversity assessments

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    • Light Data
      This dataset consists of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) recordings taken at the surface and underwater in the Boulder Patch. The dataset spans from 1984 to 2016.


    Peer-Reviewed Publications

    Aumack, C.F., K.H. Dunton, A.B. Burd, D.W. Funk, and R.A. Maffione. 2007. Linking light attenuation and suspended sediment loading to benthic productivity within an arctic kelp bed community. Journal of Phycology 43:853-863.

    Dunton, K.H. 1984. An annual carbon budget for an arctic kelp community. In: The Alaska Beaufort Sea: Ecosystems and Environments. P. Barnes, D. Schell, and E. Reimnitz (eds.), p. 311-326. Orlando: Academic Press.

    Dunton, K.H. 1985. Growth of dark-exposed Laminaria saccharina (L.) Lamour. and Laminara solidungula J. Ag. (Laminariales: Phaeophyta) in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 94:181-189.

    Dunton, K.H. 1990. Growth and production in Laminaria solidungula: relation to continuous underwater light levels in the Alaskan High Arctic. Marine Biology 106:297-304.

    Dunton, K.H. 1992. Arctic biogeography: the paradox of the marine benthic fauna and flora. Trends Ecol. and Evol. 7(6):183-189.

    Dunton, K.H. and P.K. Dayton. 1995. The biology of high latitude kelp. In: Ecology of Fjords and Coastal Waters. H.R. Skjoldal et al. (eds.), p. 499-507. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

    Dunton, K.H. and C. Jodwalis. 1988. Photosynthetic performance of Laminaria solidungula measured in situ in the Alaskan High Arctic. Marine Biology 98:277-285.

    Dunton, K.H. and D.M. Schell. 1987. Dependence of consumers on macroalgal (Laminaria solidungula) carbon in an arctic kelp community: δ13C evidence. Marine Biology 93:615-625.

    Dunton, K.H. and D.M. Schell. 1986. Seasonal carbon budget and growth of Laminaria solidungula in the Alaskan High Arctic. Marine Ecology Progress Series 31:57-66.

    Dunton, K.H. and S.V. Schonberg. 2000. The benthic faunal assemblage of the Boulder Patch kelp community. In: The Natural History of an Arctic Oil Field. J.C. Truett and S.R. Johnson (eds.), p. 371-397. New York: Academic Press.

    Dunton, K.H., S.V. Schonberg, and D.W. Funk. 2009. Interannual and spatial variability in light attenuation: evidence from three decades of growth in the arctic kelp, Laminaria solidungula. In: Smithsonian at the Poles: Contributions to International Polar Science. Krupnick et al. (eds.), pp. 271-284, Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, Washington, D.C.

    Dunton, K.H., S.V. Schonberg, L.R. Martin, and G.S. Mueller. 1992. Seasonal and annual variations in the underwater light environment of an arctic kelp community. In: Diving for Science. L.B. Cahoon (ed.), p. 83-92. Proceedings of the Twelfth Annual Scientific Diving Symposium. Costa Mesa, CA: Amer. Acad. Underwater Sci.

    Dunton, K. H., E. Reimnitz, and S. Schonberg. 1982. An Arctic Kelp Community in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea. Arctic 35:465–484.

    Henley, W.J. and K.H. Dunton. 1995. A seasonal comparison of carbon, nitrogen and pigment content in Laminaria solidungula and L. saccharina (Phaeophyta) in the Alaskan Arctic. J. Phycology 31:325-331.

    Henley, W.J. and K.H. Dunton. 1997. Effects of nitrogen supply and continuous darkness on growth and photosynthesis of the arctic kelp, Laminaria solidungula. Limnology and Oceanography 42(2):209-216.

    Konar, B. 2007. Recolonization of a high latitude hard-bottom nearshore community. Polar Biology 30:663-667.

    Konar, B. 2013. Lack of recovery from disturbance in high-arctic boulder communities. Polar Biology 36:1205-1214.

    Konar, B., Iken K. 2005. Competitive dominance among sessile marine organisms in a high Arctic boulder community. Polar Biology 29: 61-64

    Martin, L. and Gallaway, B. 1994. The effects of the Endicott Development Project on the Boulder Patch, an arctic kelp community in Stefansson Sound, Alaska. Arctic 47:54-64.

    Sellman, P.V., A.J. Delaney, E.J. Chamberlain, and K.H. Dunton. 1992. Seafloor temperature and conductivity data from Stefansson Sound, Alaska. Cold Reg. Sci. Tech. 20:271-288.

    Wiencke, C., M.N. Clayton, I. Gómez, K. Iken, U.H. Lüder, C.D. Amsler, U. Karsten, D. Hanelt, K. Bischof, and K. Dunton. 2006. Life strategy, ecophysiology and ecology of seaweeds in polar waters. Review of Environmental Science and Biotechnology

    Wiencke, C., I. Gómez, and K.H. Dunton. 2009. Phenology and seasonal physiological performance of polar seaweeds. Botanica Marina 52: 585-592.

    Wiencke C., I. Gomez, and K.H. Dunton. 2011. Phenology and seasonal physiological performance of polar seaweeds. In: Biology of Polar Benthic Algae, C. Wiencke (ed.), pp. 181-194 (Ch 9), Walter de Gruyter GmBh & Co. Berlin/New York.

    Wilce, R.T. and K.H. Dunton. 2014. The Boulder Patch (North Alaska, Beaufort Sea) and its benthic algal flora. Arctic 67 (1): 43-56.

    Wilson, C.J., P.S. Wilson, and K.H. Dunton. 2012. Assesing the low frequency acoustic characteristics of Macrocystis pyrifera, Egregia menziessi, and Laminaria solidungula. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America: 133 (6).