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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 673:85-105 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13796

Use of settlement patterns and geochemical tagging to test population connectivity of eastern oysters Crassostrea virginica

Haley N. Gancel1,2,*, Ruth H. Carmichael1,2, Jiabi Du3, Kyeong Park4

1University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL 36688, USA
2Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Dauphin Island, AL 36528, USA
3Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
4Texas A&M University at Galveston, Galveston, TX 77554, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Freshwater-dominated estuaries experience large fluctuations in their physical and chemical environments which may influence larval dispersal, settlement, and connectivity of populations with pelagic larval stages. We used settlement patterns and natural tagging along with numerical hydrodynamic model results to assess settlement and connectivity among oysters across the freshwater-dominated Mobile Bay-eastern Mississippi Sound (MB-EMS) system. Specifically, we (1) tested how freshwater inputs and associated environmental attributes influenced settlement patterns during high and low discharge conditions in 2014 and 2016, respectively, and (2) analyzed trace element (TE) ratios incorporated into multiple shell types (larval and settled shell of spat and adult shells) to determine if shells collected in situ incorporate temporally stable site-specific signatures. We also assessed if TE ratios compared between adult (TE natal signature proxy) and larval shells could infer connectivity. Larval settlement was 4× higher during low discharge than during high discharge when oyster larvae only settled in higher salinity regions (EMS). Spat and adult shells incorporated site-specific TE ratios that varied from weeks to months. Connectivity results (May-June 2016 only) suggest that EMS is an important larval source to EMS and lower MB. While we were able to infer probable connectivity patterns using adult and larval shells, more study is needed to assess the utility of adult shells as proxies for natal-location TE signatures. Results provide a baseline for measuring future larval connectivity and adult distribution changes in the MB-EMS system. Biological and geochemical data demonstrate the potential to identify environmental attributes that spatiotemporally mediate settlement and connectivity in dynamic systems.


KEY WORDS: Larval transport · Larval settlement · LA-ICP-MS · Trace elements · Mobile Bay


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Cite this article as: Gancel HN, Carmichael RH, Du J, Park K (2021) Use of settlement patterns and geochemical tagging to test population connectivity of eastern oysters Crassostrea virginica. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 673:85-105. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13796

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