MEPS 198:157-170 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps198157

Population ecology of the barnacle Chthamalus stellatus in the northwest Mediterranean

L. Benedetti-Cecchi*, S. Acunto, F. Bulleri, F. Cinelli

Dipartimento di Scienze dell¹Uomo e dell¹Ambiente, via A. Volta 6, 56126 Pisa, Italy

ABSTRACT: This study examined patterns in the distribution and demography of the barnacle Chthamalus stellatus (Poli) at different spatial scales in the northwest Mediterranean. Preliminary data indicated that the abundance and size of barnacles decreased from high-shore to low-shore habitats. The generality of these patterns was investigated at several locations (10s to 100s of km apart), at several sites within locations (100s to 1000s of m apart) and at different times. Patterns were consistent with the preliminary observations, despite considerable spatial and temporal variability at small and large spatial scales. The following models were proposed to explain the observed patterns: (1) recruitment was intrinsically greater high on the shore, (2) limitation of recruitment due to pre-emption of the substratum was greater low than high on the shore, (3) environmental conditions reduce growth low on the shore, and (4) mortality was greater low on the shore. The predictions of these models were tested by examining patterns of recruitment, growth and mortality of barnacles and availability of free space in relation to height on the shore, at several spatial scales and through time. Successful recruitment of barnacles was observed at different heights on the shore where resident organisms were removed, despite a trend toward a larger number of recruits high on the shore at 1 location (Livorno). Availability of bare rock for recruitment was greater high on the shore, implying that pre-emption of the substratum was more intense low on the shore. There was no evidence to suggest that barnacles grew faster on the high shore than on the low shore. The opposite pattern was observed for young barnacles in several cases. Mortality rates were generally greater in low-shore than high-shore habitats for young and for adult barnacles. Patterns emerged over a background of considerable spatial and temporal variation. These results emphasized the importance of pre-emption of space and mortality of juveniles in generating patterns in the distribution and structure of populations of barnacles on rocky shores in the northwest Mediterranean.

KEY WORDS: Barnacles · Chthamalus stellatus · Demography · Multiscale analyses · Spatial vari- ation · Temporal variation

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