Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
IZEMBEK: Refuge Research Yields a Major Marine Discovery
Alaska Region, August 8, 2008
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Rhodoliths in Kinzarof Lagoon
Rhodoliths in Kinzarof Lagoon - Photo Credit: n/a
Closeup of rhodolith
Closeup of rhodolith - Photo Credit: n/a

Izembek Refuge staff working with scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center discovered heretofore unknown rhodoliths in Kinzarof Lagoon adjacent to Izembek Refuge. Rhodoliths are colorful, branched red algae that resemble coral.  But unlike coral, rhodoliths are unattached and travel like seagoing tumbleweeds until they reach sufficient mass to form offshore beds.

This is only the second documented observation of rhodoliths in Alaska. In  2004, the discovery of rhodoliths in Prince William Sound made headlines across Alaska and confirmed the northern extension of  the distribution of rhodoliths.

Research Biologist David Ward of the Alaska Science Center was directing an eelgrass and seaweed inventory project with Refuge staff when the rhodoliths were discovered by divers. Also on hand for the discovery was Dr. Sandra Lindstrom, Associate Curator of the University of British Columbia Herbarium and co-author of “Seaweeds of the Pacific” who confirmed the exciting find.

Rhodolith beds greatly add to marine diversity by creating a stable transitional ecosystem between rocky and sandy areas. They serve as a habitat for many species, including scallops and clams, and contribute greatly to the world’s calcium carbonate supply.

The discovery of this previously unknown habitat along the Alaska Peninsula demonstrates how little we know about the nearshore waters of Southwest Alaska.

Contact Info: Kristine Sowl, 907-532-2445, kristine_sowl@fws.gov
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