Spatial and temporal patterns of invertebrate recruitment along the west coast of the united states

B. R. Broitman, C. A. Blanchette, A. Menge, J. Lubchenco, C. Krenz, M. Foley, P. T. Raimondi, D. Lohse, S. D. Gaines

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153 Scopus citations


Patterns of recruitment in marine ecosystems can reflect the distribution of adults, dispersal by ocean currents, or patterns of mortality after settlement. In turn, patterns of recruitment can play an important role in determining patterns of adult abundance and community dynamics. Here we examine the biogeographic structure of recruitment variability along the U.S. West Coast and examine its association with temperature variability. From 1997 to 2004 we monitored monthly recruitment rates of dominant intertidal invertebrates, mussels and barnacles, at 26 rocky shore sites on the West Coast of the United States, from northern Oregon to southern California, a span of 1750 km of coastline. We examined spatial variation in the dynamics of recruitment rates and their relationship to coastal oceanography using satellite-derived time series of monthly sea surface temperature (SST). Recruitment rates showed a biogeographic structure with large regions under similar dynamics delimited by abrupt transitions. The seasonal peak in recruitment rates for both mussels and barnacles changed from a late summer - early fall peak in Oregon to winter or early spring in northern California, and then back toward summer in southern California. Recruitment rates varied greatly in magnitude across the latitudinal range. The barnacle Balanus glandula and mussels (Mytilus spp.) showed a decline of two orders of magnitude south of Oregon. In contrast, recruitment rates of barnacles of the genus Chthamalus showed a variable pattern across the region examined. The spatial distribution of associations between raw SST and recruitment rates for all species showed positive associations, indicating recruitment during warm months, for all species in Oregon, northern California, and several sites in south-central California. By considerably extending the spatial and temporal scales beyond that of previous studies on larval recruitment rates in this system, our study has identified major biogeographic breaks around Cape Blanco and Point Conception despite considerable spatial and temporal variation within each region and among species. These large differences in recruitment rates across biogeographic scales highlight the need for a better understanding of larval responses to ocean circulation patterns in the conservation and management of coastal ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-421
Number of pages19
JournalEcological Monographs
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2008


  • Advanced very-high resolution radiometer (AVHRR) satellite
  • Balanus glandula
  • Chthamalus spp.
  • Community structure
  • Geographic variation
  • Intertidal invertebrates
  • Mytilus spp.
  • Recruitment
  • USA
  • West Coast


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