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A simple method for estimating larval supply in reef fishes and a preliminary test of limitation of population size by larval supply in the kelp bass, Paralabrax clathratus
This paper describes a method for estimating larval supply of a temperate reef fish, the kelp bass Paralabrax clathratus, that is simple, inexpensive, requires relatively low effort, and integrates larval supply over time, Using this method, we sampled larval supply concurrently at 4 sites spread over about 35 km for nearly an entire settlement season, With these data and visual estimates of recruitment (the density of young-of-the-year after the end of the settlement season), we tested the hypothesis that spatial patterns in recruitment were set by larval supply. This hypothesis was rejected: kelp bass recruitment to the 4 sites was not related to patterns of larval supply, Furthermore, in contrast to the findings of an earlier study, recruitment was not related to the density of the macroalga Macrocystis pyrifera. Recruitment was, however, strongly correlated with the density of 1 yr old kelp bass, suggesting that spatial patterns of recruitment were consistent between the 2 cohorts. Recruitment, however, was not correlated with the density of bass 2+ yr old. We also measured larval supply in a second year and found that spatial patterns of supply were strongly correlated between years at a relatively small scale of 10s to 100s m, but not at a larger scale of several km. This finding suggests that some deterministic process (or set of processes) sets spatial patterns of larval supply at small, but not large scales. At large scales, consistent patterns of recruitment between 2 cohorts in the face of variable larval supply suggest that deterministic, postsettlement processes may generate predictable patterns of recruitment even when the supply of larvae is variable. In addition to demonstrating that spatial patterns in the abundance of demersal fish are not always well predicted by larval supply, this study introduces a technique that may facilitate more thorough exploration of the role of larval supply in determining the dynamics of populations of reef fishes.