The surf zone: a semi-permeable barrier to onshore recruitment of invertebrate larvae?

Gil Rilov, Sarah E. Dudas, Bruce A. Menge, Brian A. Grantham, Jane Lubchenco, David R. Schiel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The supply of larvae to the shore is important for population replenishment and intertidal community dynamics but its variability at most scales is not well understood. We tested the relationship between nearshore mussel larval abundance and intertidal settlement rates over several years at multiple spatiotemporal scales in Oregon and New Zealand. Abundance of competent larvae nearshore and intertidal recruitment rates were simultaneously quantified using collectors mounted at different depths on moorings 50-1100 m from shore, and at adjacent rocky intertidal sites. Total mussel larval abundance and oceanographic conditions were also measured in some locations. At all scales, abundance of nearshore mussel larvae was unrelated to intertidal recruitment rates. In the intertidal, patterns of mussel recruitment were persistent in space, with sites of consistently high or low recruitment. In contrast, nearshore competent larval abundance showed generally similar abundances among sites except for a high, and spatially-inconsistent, variability in Oregon during 1998 only. On moorings, recruitment tended to be greater on midwater collectors than shallower or deeper. Finally, on moorings larval abundance in traps and recruitment on collectors was unrelated. These results suggest that (1) among sites, the size of the nearshore larval pool is relatively uniform while onshore recruitment varies and is unrelated to larval abundance, (2) temporal variability in nearshore larval availability is not strongly expressed onshore, (3) vertical stratification of competent larvae nearshore is strong and may influence transport and recruitment, and (4) within-coast variability in onshore recruitment is strongly driven by processes occurring locally within the surf zone that need to be studied to understand coastal recruitment dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-74
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 4 Jul 2008
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank R. Barrell, captain of the R/V Sacajawea, G. Hudson, J. Pamplin and M. Foley who assisted with the mooring fieldwork and F. Jones and his ship operation staff who coordinated our boat trips, helped load and provided storage space during the 1998–99 Oregon studies. D. Pillsbury and J. Simpkins provided advice and assistance during the mooring design process and generously provided materials to construct the first prototypes. R/V Kalipi and R/V Elakha boat crews: J. Barth, A. Dale, S. Holmes, C. Holmes, M. Robart and K. Shearman, and the intertidal crew: R. Driscoll, R. Hilgris, J. Tyburczy, B. Martin, D. McCoy, R. McCoy and K. Milligan helped greatly during the 2005 Oregon study. Many thanks to our Marine Ecology Research Group colleagues at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, D. Taylor, P. South and R. Taylor, for invaluable help in the field, and to D. Tattle for help in mooring construction and boat work. This research was supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (to B.A. Menge and J. Lubchenco and to D.R. Schiel), including a post-doctoral fellowship to G. Rilov, an NSF (SGER) grant (OCE97-29396) to B. A. Menge and the New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (to D. Schiel). This is contribution number 292 from PISCO, the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans, funded primarily by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. [SS]


  • Inner shelf
  • Larvae
  • Larval transport
  • Mussels
  • New Zealand
  • Oregon
  • Recruitment
  • Rocky shore
  • Settlement
  • Surf zone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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