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Spatio-temporal patterns of larval fish settlement in the northwestern Mediterranean Sea

Robin Faillettaz, Raphaël Voué, Romain Crec’hriou, Laure-Hélène Garsi, Gilles Lecaillon, Sylvia Agostini, Philippe Lenfant, Jean-Olivier Irisson*

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Most coastal fish species spend their early life stages in the pelagic environment, before settling in coastal habitats. The variability in the arrival of larvae to coastal habitats provide information on the species’ biology and recruitment potential. To explore the dynamics of larval fish supply to coastal habitats in the NW Mediterranean Sea, 13 sites were monitored using light-traps, from July 2012 to December 2015. Most variation in Catches Per Unit Effort (CPUE) among topographic basins and species were statistically significant for high (quantile 75%) and very high (quantile 90%) catches only. At year scale, CPUE displayed strong seasonality, and three main species assemblages were detected in late spring-early summer, summer and late autumn-early winter. At month scale, CPUE were higher around the new moon for all quantiles and temporally autocorrelated at a lag of about 28 days. Larval supply also varied spatially with site-specific associations, and with riverine influence. All together, these results confirm that the previously described patterns of larval supply observed in tropical and subtropical environments (e.g., the high variability at all spatial and temporal scales and the strong influence of the moon) also apply to Mediterranean fish assemblages. The larval supply in the NW Mediterranean Sea comes out as a solid candidate for monitoring the state of the marine ecosystems, highlighting the need to continue such time series.