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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 403:113-128 (2010)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08442

Understanding population dynamics of a numerically dominant species at hydrothermal vents: a matrix modeling approach

Noreen Kelly1,2,*, Anna Metaxas1

1Dalhousie University, Department of Oceanography, 1355 Oxford Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4J1, Canada
2Present address: York University, Department of Biology, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3, Canada

ABSTRACT: Using a stage-based matrix model, we explored the population dynamics and life-history traits of the numerically dominant deep-sea limpet Lepetodrilus fucensis at hydrothermal vents on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, northeast Pacific, to determine the potential mechanisms for the success of this species in an ephemeral and variable ecosystem. The life-history traits of L. fucensis differed from those generally expected for species in fluctuating and unpredictable habitats, in that variation in survival of recruits had the largest effect on population growth, while perturbations in adult survival or fecundity had little influence. However, rapid individual growth rates were also necessary to achieve long-term population growth. The modeled stable stage distribution adequately represented the dynamics of settler and recruit stages, but did not match those of adult stages, in populations sampled from 3 different sites. This suggests that factors not accounted for within the model, such as changing individual behaviour across life stages in response to environmental stimuli, may be important in shaping the structure of L. fucensis populations in different microhabitats. In numerical experiments, density-dependent survival and growth of settlers resulted in fluctuations in population growth rate and suppressed total population size over time. Reproductive failure due to parasitic infection decreased local recruitment, but did not result in population extinction. Faster growth rates allowed for population persistence under greater levels of chronic disturbance. Recovery time after a catastrophic disturbance fit within the time frames observed for eruptions in nature. Overall, our analyses emphasize the possible variation in life-history tactics exhibited by organisms in extreme and variable habitats, and demonstrate the high potential of models, originally developed for use in other ecosystems, to accelerate research in deep-sea communities.


KEY WORDS: Demography · Recruitment · Growth · Disturbance · Reproductive failure · Density dependence · Variable ecosystem · Deep sea


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Cite this article as: Kelly N, Metaxas A (2010) Understanding population dynamics of a numerically dominant species at hydrothermal vents: a matrix modeling approach. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 403:113-128. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08442

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