As Sargassum biomass continues to increase globally, it is critical to develop a better understanding of how it functions as habitat, therefore, community structure of Sargassum-associated organisms was examined from 11 sampling locations spanning the tropical Florida Straits to the more temperate Gulf Stream off the coast of Savannah, Georgia from May to September 2018 using a combination of modified shrimp trawls and dip nets. A total of 5413 organisms were collected from Sargassum habitat representing 14 species from 10 families. A core group of organisms (Platynereis dumerilii, Litiopa melanostoma, Portunus sayi, Portunus spinimanus, Leander tenuicornis, and Latreutes fucorum) were found throughout the entirety of the geographic range surveyed. This core community did not vary significantly with increasing distance to shore or latitude, nor did it correlate with environmental variables such as salinity and temperature. However, community structure did vary with clump size, with larger clumps harboring more speciose communities. The Sargassum community in the Florida Straits and Gulf Stream appear to provide habitat for a consistent group of epifaunal organisms. In turn, this stable group offers a consistent prey source for a variety of important, higher trophic level organisms.
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Vol. 52 • No. 2