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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 196:239-251 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps196239

Cohorts in space: geostatistical mapping of the age structure of the squat lobster Pleuroncodes monodon population off central Chile

Rubén Roa*, Fabián Tapia**

Departamento de Oceanografía, Universidad de Concepción, Casilla 160-C, Concepción, Chile
*E-mail: **Present address: Biology Department, MS#34, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA

ABSTRACT: Animal populations are spatial objects in the sense that their structure and functioning depend on the spatial context they inhabit. However, most population dynamics models ignore the spatial context and set populations Œin the air¹. This paper is focused on the squat lobster Pleuroncodes monodon population inhabiting the narrow continental shelf off central Chile, and encompassing 3 degrees of latitude. We tested the hypothesis that the spatial functioning of this population is driven by annual cohorts that enter the population through a nursery ground, and then radiate away from the nursery to the north and south by individual dispersal, thus creating a spatial pattern where age and distance from the nursery are correlated. To test the hypothesis we performed an extensive survey from 34 to 37°S along the continental shelf, collecting data on individual mean size by sex and spatial location. The data gathered was analysed using a combination of mixture distribution analysis on size frequency data and geostatistical mapping on size and location data. Isotropic and anisotropic variogram models were fitted to size data for both sexes. Selection of the appropriate models and kriging parameters was done by cross validation. The hypothesis posed was fully corroborated by the data and the analysis, with 6 adult cohorts identified for both sexes radiating away from the nursery ground in waves at an average distance of one fifth the latitudinal range of the population. Geostatistical mapping of size data for juveniles in the nursery ground, collected with a higher resolution in previous years, showed that recruitment can occur as several relatively small patches interspersed through the nursery area or as a large patch in the middle of the nursery. The corroborated model of spatial population functioning explains the history of commercial over-exploitation and recolonisation of this population. It also suggest that this 350 km long population is renewed by recruits from nearby cohorts, both to the south and north of the nursery area, while cohorts farther north can be exporting recruits to prime nursery habitat. These insights into the functioning of this large population could only be gained by a fully spatially explicit analysis.

KEY WORDS: Population dynamics · Cohort dispersal · Geostatistical mapping · Spatially explicit · Habitat features · Crustacean biology · Chile

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