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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 351:209-220 (2007)  -  DOI:

Effects of ephemeral circulation on recruitment and connectivity of nearshore fish populations spanning Southern and Baja California

Kimberly A. Selkoe1,3,*, Augustus Vogel2, Steven D. Gaines1

1Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106, USA
2Department of Biology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089, USA
3Present address: Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology, PO Box 1346, Kaneohe, Hawaii 96744, USA

ABSTRACT: The California sheephead Semicossyphus pulcher and the kelp bass Paralabrax clathratus are members of a suite of nearshore reef species that have subtropical taxonomic affiliations and important fisheries in the Southern California Bight (SCB). This suite shows high interannual fluctuation in recruitment success in the SCB, with no known cause. One hypothesis gaining mention in management literature is the idea that recruitment booms in the SCB originate from larvae swept poleward from Mexico during El Niño flow-reversal events. If true, SCB stocks may be reliant on Mexican sources. We used 3 diverse sources of data to investigate the likelihood of El Niño-driven recruitment success and connectivity for S. pulcher and P. clathratus. Time series of larval abundance revealed that neither species shows synchrony with El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycles that would suggest influx of Mexican larvae during El Niño flow reversals. P. clathratus age structure data show that recruitment strength is unrelated to ENSO cycles but correlates to spring sea surface temperature in the SCB, indicating that local environmental factors drive interannual variation in local production. Genetic analyses of 14 populations of P. clathratus with 7 microsatellite loci revealed distinct patterns of genetic structure in the SCB and Baja California that reflect localized connectivity patterns and contradict patterns that would be expected if dispersal primarily occurred during El Niño flow reversals. While these results support the importance of protecting local sources in the SCB, continued study of dispersal and recruitment at large scales will help characterize the causes of interannual variation and the exact scale of cross-border connectivity.

KEY WORDS: Baja California · El Niño · ENSO · Fish recruitment · Kelp bass · Paralabrax · Semicossyphus pulcher · Southern California Bight

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Cite this article as: Selkoe KA, Vogel A, Gaines SD (2007) Effects of ephemeral circulation on recruitment and connectivity of nearshore fish populations spanning Southern and Baja California. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 351:209-220.

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