Marine Biology

, Volume 112, Issue 1, pp 107–118 | Cite as

Population dynamics of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus in a Central California kelp forest: recruitment, mortality, growth, and diet

  • M. C. Kenner


The population dynamics of Strongylocentrotus purpuratus inhabiting dense mats of geniculate coralline algae in a shallow central California Macrocystis pyrifera forest was examined. Sea otters had occupied the area for over two decades. Sea urchin density and size distribution were sampled during 1984–1986 to determine recruitment and mortality patterns. Growth rates were obtained from tetracycline-labeled individuals and changes in sizefrequency modes. Periodic collections were made to examine gut contents and the relationship of diet to food availability. The interaction of recruitment and mortality resulted in a dynamic population structure. Mean densities ranged from 6.5 to 12.7 urchins 0.25 m-2. The population consisted primarily of urchins up to 40 mm in test diameter in a size distribution which changed from unimodal to bimodal and back over the 2 yr study. Mortality was temporally variable and related to test diameter. Growth rates were somewhat lower than most previous reports for the species and suggested that most of the population was made up of 1 and 2 yr-old individuals. Diet consisted largely of geniculate coralline algae, with fleshy brown algae becoming important when available as drift. This study showed high densities of small urchins can exist in a California kelp forest inhabited by sea otters, but regular recruitment may be necessary to maintain such populations.


Population Structure Population Dynamic Food Availability Brown Alga Periodic Collection 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. C. Kenner
    • 1
  1. 1.Moss Landing Marine LaboratoryMoss LandingUSA

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