The Influence of Nearshore Oceanography on Larval Distribution, Transport, and Recruitment in Barnacles and Mussels

EPA Grant Number: F6E21179
Title: The Influence of Nearshore Oceanography on Larval Distribution, Transport, and Recruitment in Barnacles and Mussels
Investigators: Tyburczy, Joe
Institution: Oregon State University
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: September 1, 2006 through September 1, 2009
Project Amount: $111,344
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Aquatic Ecosystems , Fellowship - Marine Ecology


I will quantify patterns of vertical and cross-shelf distributions of barnacle and mussel larvae and their relationship to nearshore oceanographic features and onshore larval supply and recruitment.

Larval dispersal and onshore transport are essential parts of the life history of many marine organisms whose planktonic offspring must reach nearshore habitats for successful recruitment. Thus, gaining insight into patterns of larval transport is of vital importance in marine conservation and management, including the design and effects of marine protected areas. Yet these processes remain a “black-box” in our understanding of marine ecosystems. I will address this critical gap in knowledge by integrating biological and oceanographic data to test two key hypotheses:
      1) Larval concentrations vary by species and stage of development relative to transient oceanographic features including upwelling fronts and stratified layers.
      2) Data on the oceanography and distribution of larvae in nearshore waters allows prediction of onshore larval transport and recruitment.


Every other day during eight-day periods I will pump larvae from multiple depths along a transect offshore of Fogarty Creek, Oregon, collect oceanographic profiles of salinity, temperature, depth, dissolved oxygen and phytoplankton concentration, and monitor onshore larval delivery and recruitment. Monitoring several oceanographic variables will facilitate reliable identification and tracking of water masses, including upwelling fronts. A moored instrument (ADCP) will provide data on ocean currents throughout the water column, and a series of moorings with larval traps will provide integrated measures of larval flux. Three eight-day sampling periods will be conducted each summer over the course of at least two years. I will quantify the larvae of barnacles (Balanus crenatus, Balanus glandula, Pollicipes polymerus, and Cthamalus dalli) and mussels (Mytilus spp.) in all samples. I will integrate this biological (larval sampling) and oceanographic data to investigate correlations between larval distributions and oceanographic variables including upwelling fronts and stratification. I will develop and assess the accuracy of a model that predicts onshore larval delivery and recruitment based on the offshore distribution of larvae and data on ocean stratification, fronts, and currents.

Expected Results:

Increased knowledge of nearshore biophysical interactions and how they affect cross-shelf transport and recruitment would represent a significant advance in marine ecology. Results of this research will enhance understanding of nearshore larval transport processes and their effects on recruitment. It will provide insight into marine ecosystem dynamics and demographic connectivity and contribute to improvements in management and effective reserve design.

Supplemental Keywords:

coastal oceanography, currents, intertidal, larval transport, marine ecology, marine reserves, recruitment, upwelling,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, algal blooms, Biochemistry, Environmental Monitoring, Ecology and Ecosystems, marine ecosystem, nutrient enrichment, biogeochemical, HAB ecology, phytoplankton, barnacles, larval distribution, carbon-specific growth rates, algal bloom detection

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007
  • 2008
  • Final