MEPS 314:149-158 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps314149

Differential effects of suspended sediments on larval survival and settlement of New Zealand urchins Evechinus chloroticus and abalone Haliotis iris

Nicole E. Phillips*, Jeffrey S. Shima

School of Biological Sciences, PO Box 600, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington 6001, New Zealand

ABSTRACT: Larvae of marine organisms play an important role in the dynamics of populations, are generally sensitive to environmental stressors, and vary dramatically among species in life history traits. We examined the effects of suspended sediments from terrestrial runoff on larval development, survival, and settlement of New Zealand sea urchins Evechinus chloroticus and abalone Haliotis iris. Larval urchins and abalone were reared under 5 suspended sediment regimes (variable concentrations and timing of exposure, benchmarked against nearby field conditions), and in the absence of sediments. Stage specific per capita mortality rates of urchin larvae increased with concentrations of suspended sediments, and generally, these rates (and the sensitivity of urchin larvae to sediments) decreased with age. Mortality rates of abalone similarly increased in response to sediment concentrations, although older larvae continued to incur high losses when exposed to sediments. Mortality rates of both abalone and urchins increased in response to acute exposure to sediments early in development. For urchins, this effect was immediate and coincident only with exposure to sediments, whereas elevated mortality rates persisted well after the removal of sediments for abalone. Cumulative survival to competency was similar among species and generally decreased with exposure time and/or concentration of sediments. Urchins were twice as likely to settle and metamorphose as abalone but patterns were not related to larval sediment regime for either species. The strong species specific responses to suspended sediments we observe may greatly alter patterns of larval connectivity in marine meta-communities.

KEY WORDS: Suspended sediment · Runoff · Larval mortality · Recruitment · Settlement · Abalone · Urchins

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