No zone is always greener: variation in the performance of
Fucus gardneri embryos, juveniles and adults across tidal zone and season
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Wright, JT and Williams, SL and Dethier, MN, No zone is always greener: variation in the performance of
Fucus gardneri embryos, juveniles and adults across tidal zone and season, Marine Biology: International Journal on Life in Oceans and Coastal Waters, 145, (6) pp. 1061-1073. ISSN 0025-3162 (2004) [Refereed Article]
The responses of the different stages of an organism's life-cycle to different environments can have important implications for their persistence in those habitats. The marine intertidal zone is considered among the most stressful of all marine environments, because daily exposure at low tide results in daily fluctuations in a range of important environmental factors. In this study we examined the link between daytime exposure and the performance of embryos, juveniles and adults of the seaweed Fucus gardneri across zones and seasons on San Juan Island, Washington, USA. Specifically we asked: (1) whether three measures of performance for F. gardneri: growth rates, surface area of reproductive tissue and survivorship differed between high- and mid-intertidal zones, and among months throughout the year and, then, (2) whether total daytime exposure within each zone each month was a good predictor of variation in these measures of performance. At our study site, seasonal differences in the timing of low tides result in long periods each day during summer of very harsh conditions (exposure to the air, high temperatures and low humidity) compared to winter when exposure to the air during the day is virtually absent. Contrary to the expectation of lower performance in the high zone, we found no consistent differences between zones over the entire year in any measure of performance for any stage. For nearly all traits, there were significant differences among months and, importantly, significant interactions between zone and month. Thus, for each stage there were some months when thalli in the high zone performed better and some months when thalli in the mid-zone performed better. Regressions between total daytime exposure and performance each month indicated some stage-specific effects. Larger thalli appeared more strongly affected by the amount of exposure per month; there were significant negative relationships between total daytime exposure and (1) growth rates of medium and large adults in the high zone and (2) the surface area of reproductive tissue of medium adults in the high zone and small adults in the mid-zone. The lowest survivorship for all stages occurred in the 2-3 months that followed summer, suggesting a cumulative effect of long daytime exposure in summer on survivorship. Post-settlement survivorship of embryos was very low throughout the year, with only 2 out of 5395 seeded zygotes surviving to a visible size. One-month post-settlement survivorship ranged from 0% to 16.7%, and there were no differences in the survivorship curves between high- and mid-intertidal zones for each cohort. Although it is often assumed that the performance of intertidal species is lower in high-intertidal zones because of exposure to environmental extremes for longer, our results do not support this paradigm. Instead, they indicate a complex and fluctuating pattern of variation in the performance of different stages of the F. gardneri life-cycle throughout the year in different intertidal zones. © Springer-Verlag 2004.
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