Temporal and spatial components of variability in benthic recruitment, a 5-year temperate example
Deployment of artificial substrata is a common method of investigating early community development and recruitment, but rarely are such experiments of long enough duration to include even year time scales. We placed replicate, machined-slate panels (15x15 cm) in the intertidal and at depths of 6 and 12 m at two sites of differing flow rate at Lough Hyne, SW Ireland. These were serially replaced every 30-60 days for a period of 5 years (1997-2002), except in the intertidal (2000-2002). The number and identity of all recruits were recorded. Recruitment varied over several orders of magnitude both on temporal and spatial scales. The greatest source of variability was between the intertidal (with few species or recruit numbers) and the subtidal zones (many species, some with thousands of recruits per panel per 30 days). Highest levels of recruitment occurred at the low-flow site (Labhra Cliff). Here, recruitment was dominated by the serpulid polychaete, Pomatoceros sp., reaching similar to4000 individuals per panel per 30 days. Highest species richness occurred, however, at the high flow site (Whirlpool Cliff). At this site more colonial forms (e.g. bryozoans) settled. Season was found to be the dominant pattern explaining subtidal recruit and species number variability. Year, however, was the dominant temporal pattern explaining change in diversity (Shannon-Wiener H'). In space, depth explained most variability of recruit numbers, whereas site explained more variation in species richness. Both these spatial factors contributed similarly to variability of diversity (H'). Recruitment has long been known to vary considerably over large spatial scales, such as with latitude and isolation, but we that show changes of a similar magnitude in recruitment can occur across small spatial scales. Individual taxa showed varied temporal patterns of recruitment including continuous, regular seasonal fluctuations and irregular pulses in particular years.