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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 379:135-150 (2009)  -  DOI:

Persistent border: an analysis of the geographic boundary of an intertidal species

R. J. H. Herbert1,5,*, A. J. Southward2,†, R. T. Clarke1, M. Sheader3, S. J. Hawkins2,4

1School of Conservation Sciences, Bournemouth University, Talbot Campus, Fern Barrow, Poole BH12 5BB, UK
2Marine Biological Association, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, UK
3School of Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton, European Way, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK
4School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, Menai Bridge, Anglesey LL59 5AB, UK
5Medina Valley Centre, Dodnor Lane, Newport, Isle of Wight PO30 5TE, UK

ABSTRACT: The biological performance of species close to their biogeographic boundaries is of critical interest in a period of rapid climate change and can inform predictions of future patterns of distribution. The classic view is that performance attributes (reproduction, growth, survival) will gradually decline from the centre towards the edge of a species range. A persistent discontinuity in the distribution of the intertidal barnacle Chthamalus montagui on the central south coast of England has enabled us to test hypotheses about its performance and recruitment as the range edge is approached. Although adult density was reduced by over 5 orders of magnitude along a 200 km distance, there was little evidence of impaired performance at the range edge. There have been fluctuations in abundance over the last 50 yr at shores approaching the border, which are associated with changes in temperature and suggest thermal sensitivities. A study of recruitment in C. montagui and in other intertidal barnacles revealed a region of very low recruitment for all species close to the border of C. montagui. We propose that reductions in larval supply caused by complex regional hydrography and suboptimal habitat quality, not adult performance, is most likely responsible for a steep gradient in recruitment as the border is approached, although possible reductions in larval performance cannot be totally discounted. The location of ‘low recruitment cells’ caused by oceanographic processes that obstruct the dispersal of propagules needs to be identified when modelling the rate of change of biological assemblages and the location and spacing of reserves.

KEY WORDS: Marine ecosystems · Oceanography · Biological performance · Recruitment · Climate change · Intertidal rocky shore

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Cite this article as: Herbert RJH, Southward AJ, Clarke RT, Sheader M, Hawkins SJ (2009) Persistent border: an analysis of the geographic boundary of an intertidal species. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 379:135-150.

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