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Patterns of mussel recruitment in southern Africa: a caution about using artificial substrata to approximate natural recruitment

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Abstract

Quantifying sessile marine invertebrate recruitment often requires destructive sampling or extrapolation from artificial substrata, the latter introducing the danger of artifacts. We measured intertidal mussel recruitment into mussel beds and into brushes at three-month intervals for five years across 3,200 km of southern Africa and determined substrata effects on recruitment rate. Recruitment into mussel beds showed a strong, coast-wide gradient, with high recruitment on the West coast, diminishing on the South coast, and increasing slightly on the East coast. At scales of 10 s of km, brushes reflected natural temporal recruitment variability, with a strong significant linear correlation between recruitment into brushes and into mussel beds. However, the relationship became semi-logarithmic when comparing among locations at a scale of 100 s of km. Artificial substrata thus reflect local natural settlement well but may be a poor indicator of it when spatial scales are large, particularly when mussel bed topography is complex, or localities have very different recruitment densities.

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Acknowledgments

This study formed part of a five-year multi-institutional investigation into mussel recruitment, coordinated through and funded by the South African Network of Coastal and Oceanic Research (SANCOR) and the National Research Foundation, and led by the co-authors of this paper. Indispensable help with sampling was provided by G Currie (Namibian Sea Fisheries), B Tomalin (Oceanographic Research Institute Durban), B Elliott (Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife), T Lindsay and J Lindsay (Rhodes University), and N Steffani and C Velasquez (University of Cape Town). Additional funding came from a Pew Marine Conservation fellowship held by JMH and an Andrew Mellon Foundation grant held by GMB. The authors appreciate the constructive improvements made by anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Kathleen E. Reaugh-Flower.

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Communicated by F. Bulleri.

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Reaugh-Flower, K.E., Branch, G.M., Harris, J.M. et al. Patterns of mussel recruitment in southern Africa: a caution about using artificial substrata to approximate natural recruitment. Mar Biol 157, 2177–2185 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-010-1482-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-010-1482-9

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