The richness and turnover of coastal larval pools set upper limits for biodiversity in coastal systems. For particular local systems, such as embayments, the characteristics of the local larval pool are determined by the relative contributions of locally produced and external larvae. The balance between these sources partially reflects the extent of tidal exchange and is hence related to system size and flushing time. Larvae of benthic marine invertebrates were sampled from 8 bays along the Irish coast to investigate the effect of coastline configuration on the characteristics of the larval pool. Flushing time explained 34.5% of the variability in species richness from a series of daily samples. Many of the potentially relevant environmental variables are correlated, limiting the potential for individual variables to be examined in isolation. We therefore used a principal components analysis to describe the major patterns in environmental variability across bays. The second principal component separated bays along a gradient of increasing depth, salinity, tidal range and flushing time. Scores along this component were generally better predictors of the larval pool than single variables, explaining as much as 61.2% of the variation in species richness, diversity and similarity between dates. Deeper bays, with more saline water and longer flushing times, tended to have richer and more diverse larval pools, with a greater consistency in species composition between sample dates. No relationship was found between environmental variables and larval abundance. Our results suggest that flushing time, particularly when in combination with topographic variables, chlorophyll, tidal range and salinity, may be a useful predictor for the richness and turnover of local larval pools.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Aquatic Science