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Effects of environmental and biotic factors on the fluctuations of abundance of Littorina obtusata (Gastropoda: Littorinidae)

Abstract

To explain periodic fluctuations in abundance of an intertidal flat periwinkle Littorina obtusata, we tested the potential impacts of several key environmental and biotic factors on the population density of this mollusc. The analysis showed that 79% of density variation was due to the changes of the recruitment of the periwinkles and likely caused by intraspecific competition for resources (algae Fucus vesiculosus) between the recruits and the older molluscs under the conditions of depleted habitat capacity. The cyclical changes in L. obtusata density result from the alternating periods of high and low recruitment. High recruitment is observed when the abundance of mature periwinkles is relatively low and enough resources are available to insure high survival of the recruits. The duration of high recruitment periods (approximately 3 years) is determined by the maturation time of the periwinkles. As the recruits mature, the density of adult periwinkles increases and the subsequent recruitment decreases. The duration of the low recruitment phases (an average of 3–4 years) appear linked to the longevity of mature L. obtusata. As the adults age and die out, their density declines and the release of resources leads to an increase of recruitment heralding the beginning of the next cycle.

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Notes

  1. Hereafter, "the density of recruits", "the number of recruits," "recruitment" are used as synonyms.

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Acknowledgments

The author expresses his sincere gratitude to the Administration of the Kandalaksha Nature Reserve and the White Sea Biological Station of the Zoological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences for the support of long-term monitoring studies on Ryashkov Island. I am deeply grateful to the crews of the research vessels “Belomor,” “Professor Vladimer Kuznetzov,” and “Berkut” for technical help. I take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to K. E. Nikolaev, S. A. Konkov, and others for the assistance in sampling. I am deeply grateful to A. A. Sukhotin for valuable advice and help in the preparation of this article. I want to give special thanks to the reviewers for their critical comments and guidance on improving the text of the manuscript. I am sincerely grateful to M. A. Varfolomeeva for help in translating this article into English. At various stages, the work was supported by Russian Fund of Basic Research Grant 05-04-48056; programs of basic research of Russian Academy of Sciences “Dynamics of gene pools of plants, animals and human beings” and “Biodiversity: Inventory, function, preservation”; by the program of basic research of the Branch of Biological Sciences of Russian Academy of Sciences “Biological Resources of Russia.”

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Correspondence to Eugene V. Kozminsky.

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Guest editor: A. A. Sukhotin / Long-term research on marine ecosystems in the White Sea, Russia

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Kozminsky, E.V. Effects of environmental and biotic factors on the fluctuations of abundance of Littorina obtusata (Gastropoda: Littorinidae). Hydrobiologia 706, 81–90 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-012-1418-0

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Keywords

  • Littorina obtusata
  • Population size
  • Fluctuations of abundance
  • Population cycles
  • Intraspecific competition
  • Fucus vesiculosus
  • Habitat capacity