Pre- and Post Recruitment Processes Determining Dominance by Mussels on Intertidal Reefs in Southern New Zealand
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
The current explanation for the absence, or low abundance, of filter-feeding invertebrates from some rocky shores is that because of local variation in nearshore oceanographic conditions, larvae do not arrive in sufficient numbers to establish populations. One putative consequence of this is that macroalgae are able to establish dominance in areas where filter-feeders (especially mussels) do not recruit well. While macroalgae have been transplanted to mussel-dominated shores with varying success, the survival, growth and reproduction of transplanted mussels has not been tested in areas dominated by macroalgae. To determine specifically what tips the balance between shores dominated by filter-feeding invertebrates and those dominated by macroalgae, I monitored the recruitment of intertidal mussels at four sites on the Kaikoura coast: two with mussels present and two algal-dominated. No significant differences in mussel recruitment rates were found between habitats and recruitment intensity at all sites was found to be very low. Recruitment limitation is not the reason for the absence of mussels from algal dominated shores but some form of limitation does occur to reduce the number of arriving mussels. Predation effects were examined by transplanting juvenile mussels into caged, uncaged and control treatments. No significant differences in predation rates between habitats were found and transplanted mussels in open cages at all sites were removed within 3 days. Mobile fish predators appeared to be the most likely cause of this intense predation. Growth of transplanted mussels into algal and mussel habitats was found to be significantly different. Mussels grew faster in mussel dominated habitats and after 6 months in algal dominated habitats, all mussels had died. The outcome of these experiments indicates that there is a close relationship between recruitment, survival and growth which tips the balance and allows the existence of mussel beds along the Kaikoura coastline.