Wave exposure effects on population structure and recruitment in the mussel Perna perna suggest regulation primarily through availability of recruits and food, not space
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Recruitment and population structure of Perna perna in low shore mussel beds were investigated over 15 months at six sites along the south coast of South Africa. Initial, subjective classification of sites as wave exposed or wave sheltered (three of each) was confirmed using the dissolution of cement blocks to measure average water flux and dynamometers for maximum wave force. Recruitment occurred throughout the year, but recruit (1–5 mm) densities were significantly higher from January to April 1996 on both shore types. Recruit densities were positively correlated with adult (>15 mm) densities for both shore types (P < 0.05) but the correlations were extremely weak (r2 < 0.06 in each case). In areas with 100% cover, adult size (mean and maximum lengths) was greater on exposed sites, but density showed the reverse and was negatively correlated with maximum wave strength (r = −0.84). Despite differences in adult densities and sizes, biomass, which is a product of the two, showed no significant difference between the two shore types (ANOVA P > 0.05). Thus wave exposure dramatically affects density, recruitment and mussel size, but not recruitment timing or biomass where there is 100% cover, and mediates a three-way interaction among food supply, larval supply and intraspecific competition for space. In contrast to shores with saturation recruitment, mussel biomass here appears to be limited by recruit supply and constraints of food, especially on sheltered shores, while density is regulated through intraspecific competition for space primarily on exposed shores and at small spatial scales.
KeywordsIntraspecific Competition Perna Wave Exposure Adult Density Mussel Population
We gratefully acknowledge funding from the National Research Foundation of South Africa and Rhodes University. This research complied with the laws of South Africa.
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