Interhemispheric comparison of recruitment to intertidal communities: Pattern persistence and scales of variation

Sergio A. Navarrete, Bernardo R. Broitman, Bruce A. Menge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Recruitment variation can be a major source of fluctuation in populations and communities, making it difficult to generalize results. Determining the scales of variation and whether spatial patterns in the supply of individuals are persistent over time can provide insight into spatial generality and the application of conservation and metacommunity models. We examined these issues using eight-year-long data sets of monthly recruitment of intertidal mussels (Mytilus spp., Perumytilus purpuratus, Semimyt'dus algosus, Brachidontes granulata) and barnacles (Balanus glandula, Chthamalus dalli, Jehlius cirratus, Notochthamalus scabrosus) at sites spanning >900 km along the coasts of Oregon-northern California (OR-NCA, 45.47-39.43† N) and central Chile (CC, 29.5-34.65† S). We evaluated four general "null" hypotheses: that despite different phylogenies and great spatial separation of these taxa, their similar life history strategies and environmental settings lead to similar patterns of recruitment (1) between hemispheres, (2) in time, (3) in space, and (4) at larger and smaller spatial scales. Hypothesis 1 was rejected: along the OR-NCA coast, rates of recruitment were between two and three orders of magnitude higher, and patterns of seasonality were generally stronger and more coherent across space and time than along CC. Surprisingly, however, further analysis revealed regularities in both time and space for all species, supporting hypotheses 2 and 3. Temporal decorrelation scales were 1-3 months, and characteristic spatial scales of recruitment were ∼250 km. Contrary to hypothesis 4, for the ecologically dominant species in both hemispheres, recruitment was remarkably persistent at larger mesoscales (kilometers) but was highly stochastic at smaller microscales (meters). Across species, increased recruitment variation at large scales was positively associated with increased persistence. Our results have several implications. Although the two regions span distinct latitudinal ranges, potential forcing processes behind these patterns include similar large-scale climates and topographically locked hydrographic features, such as upwelling. Further, spatial persistence of the recruitment patterns of most species at the mesoscale supports the view that marine protected areas can be powerful conservation and management tools. Finally, persistent and yet contrasting spatial patterns of recruitment among competing species suggest that recent metacommunity models might provide useful representations of the mechanisms involved in species coexistence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1308-1322
Number of pages15
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2008


  • Barnacles
  • Chile-Oregon-California
  • Coastal oceanography
  • Long-term time series
  • Mussels
  • Predictability
  • Settlement
  • Spatial scale
  • Spatial statistics
  • Supply-side ecology
  • Upwelling


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