Marine Biology

, Volume 145, Issue 1, pp 201–214 | Cite as

Temporal and spatial components of variability in benthic recruitment, a 5-year temperate example

  • D. I. WatsonEmail author
  • D. K. A. Barnes
Research Article


Deployment of artificial substrata is a common method of investigating early community development and recruitment, but rarely are such experiments of long enough duration to include even year time scales. We placed replicate, machined-slate panels (15×15 cm) in the intertidal and at depths of 6 and 12 m at two sites of differing flow rate at Lough Hyne, SW Ireland. These were serially replaced every 30–60 days for a period of 5 years (1997–2002), except in the intertidal (2000–2002). The number and identity of all recruits were recorded. Recruitment varied over several orders of magnitude both on temporal and spatial scales. The greatest source of variability was between the intertidal (with few species or recruit numbers) and the subtidal zones (many species, some with thousands of recruits per panel per 30 days). Highest levels of recruitment occurred at the low-flow site (Labhra Cliff). Here, recruitment was dominated by the serpulid polychaete, Pomatoceros sp., reaching ~4000 individuals per panel per 30 days. Highest species richness occurred, however, at the high flow site (Whirlpool Cliff). At this site more colonial forms (e.g. bryozoans) settled. Season was found to be the dominant pattern explaining subtidal recruit and species number variability. Year, however, was the dominant temporal pattern explaining change in diversity (Shannon–Wiener H′). In space, depth explained most variability of recruit numbers, whereas site explained more variation in species richness. Both these spatial factors contributed similarly to variability of diversity (H′). Recruitment has long been known to vary considerably over large spatial scales, such as with latitude and isolation, but we that show changes of a similar magnitude in recruitment can occur across small spatial scales. Individual taxa showed varied temporal patterns of recruitment including continuous, regular seasonal fluctuations and irregular pulses in particular years.


Species Richness Intertidal Zone Tidal Cycle Subtidal Zone Planktonic Larva 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank Dr. J. Bell, I. Davidson, K. Rawlinson and Dr. E. Verling for assistance in fieldwork. We thank University College Cork technicians A. Whittaker and B. McNamara for maintenance of field equipment and D. O’Donnell of Duchas for granting our research permit to work inside the Marine Nature Reserve of Lough Hyne. We also thank Prof. C. Todd (Gatty Marine Laboratory, University of St. Andrews) for making available the experimental apparatus (panels) used in this study. Finally, we would especially like to thank Dr. R. O’Riordan and Prof. T. Cross for comments on the manuscript and Dr. A.-M. Power for assisting with the ANOVA analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Zoology, Ecology and Plant SciencesNational University of IrelandCorkIreland
  2. 2.British Antarctic SurveyNERCCambridgeUK

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