The role of oxygen and other environmental variables on survivorship, abundance, and community structure of invertebrate meroplankton of Oregon nearshore coastal waters Public Deposited


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  • The high productivity of Eastern Boundary Upwelling Ecosystems (EBUE), some of the most productive ecosystems in the globe, is attributed to the nutrient rich waters brought up through upwelling. Climate change scenarios for coastal upwelling systems, predict an intensification of coastal upwelling winds. Associated with intensification in upwelling are biogeochemical changes such as ocean hypoxia and ocean acidification. In recent years, the California Current System (CCS) has experienced the occurrence of nearshore hypoxia and the novel rise of anoxia. This has been attributed to changes in the intensity of upwelling wind stress. The effects of some of the more severe hypoxia and anoxia events in the CCS have been mass mortality of fish and benthic invertebrates. However, the impacts on zooplankton in this system are not known. Meroplankton, those organisms which have a planktonic stage for only part of their life cycle, are an important component of zooplankton communities. The larval stage of benthic invertebrates forms an important link between benthic adult communities and planktonic communities. Larvae serve to disperse individuals to new locations and to link populations. They are also food for fish and planktonic invertebrates. This important life stage can spend long periods in the plankton (from days to months) where environmental conditions can affect larval health, subsequent settlement and recruitment success, and juvenile health. This research assesses the role of hypoxia and larval survivorship, and the relationship between individual abundance and community structure of larvae to environmental factors in the field. In laboratory experiments (Chapter 2), a suite of 10 rocky intertidal invertebrate species from four phyla were exposed to low oxygen conditions representative of the nearshore environment of the Oregon coast. Results revealed a wide range in tolerances from species with little tolerance (e.g. the shore crab Hemigrapsus oregonensis) to species with high tolerance (e.g. the California mussel Mytilus californianus). The differential responses across larvae to chronic hypoxia and anoxia potentially could affect their recruitment success and consequently, the structure and species composition of intertidal communities. Field studies (Chapter 3 & 4) explore the relationship between environmental variables and larval abundance and community structure. Chapter 3 focuses on broad taxonomic groups, while Chapter 4 focuses on larval decapods in particular. Fine focus was devoted to decapod larvae, due to laboratory findings of heightened sensitivity to hypoxia of decapod crabs. A finding that is also supported in the literature. The goal of field studies was to identify the environmental parameters that structure meroplankton and larval decapod communities and identify which of these parameters play a significant role in influencing larval abundance. A number of environmental variables contributed to meroplankton assemblage structure and larval decapod assemblage structure. These included distance from shore, depth, date, upwelling intensity, dissolved oxygen, and cumulative wind stress. Some of these factors occurred frequently in larval abundance models. In Chapter 3, individual abundance across broad taxonomic groups was most commonly explained by upwelling intensity while in Chapter 4, individual abundance of different decapod species was explained by cumulative wind stress, which is a proxy for upwelling intensity. The prominent role of upwelling related factors in explaining individual abundance is important considering climate change projections of an increased intensification of upwelling winds in EBUE.
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