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Okamoto, D. K., Schroeter, S., & Reed, D. C. (2020). Effects of ocean climate on spatiotemporal variation in sea urchin settlement and recruitment. Limnol Oceanogr, .
Abstract: Sea urchins are voracious herbivores that influence the ecological structure and function of nearshore ecosystems throughout the world. Like many species that produce planktonic larvae, their recruitment is thought to be particularly sensitive to climatic fluctuations that directly or indirectly affect adult reproduction and larval transport and survival. Yet how climate alters sea urchin populations in space and time by modifying larval recruitment and year-class strength on the time-scales that regulate populations remains understudied. Using a, spatially replicated weekly-biweekly data set spanning 27 yr and 1100 km of coastline, we characterized seasonal, interannual, and spatial patterns of larval settlement of the purple sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus). We show that large spatial differences in temporal patterns of larval settlement were associated with different responses to fluctuations in ocean temperature and climate. Importantly, we found a strong correlation between larval settlement and regional year class strength suggesting that such temporal and spatial variation in settlement plays an important role in controlling population dynamics. These results provide strong evidence over extensive temporal and spatial domains that climatic fluctuations shape broad-scale patterns of larval settlement and subsequent population structure of an important marine herbivore known to control the productivity, community state, and provisioning services of marine ecosystems.