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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2001

Settlement patterns of newly settled plaice (Pleuronectes platessa) in a non-tidal Swedish fjord in relation to larval supply and benthic predators

Wennhage, Håkan; Pihl, Leif


In demersal fish species with a pelagic larval stage, settlement patterns may be a consequence of variations in larval supply, habitat selection at settlement, and processes acting between the time of settlement and the time of benthic sampling. This study describes temporal (1994-1998) and spatial variation in plaice (Pleuronectes platessa L.) settlement densities in four semi-isolated nursery areas with similar habitat characteristics, in the non-tidal Gullmarsfjord on the west coast of Sweden. Juvenile abundance varied by a factor of ten, both among years and among nursery grounds. For the 3 years when larval sampling was undertaken (1994-1996) and all nursery areas, there was a significant positive relationship between larval supply and juvenile abundance (linear regression: r(2) = 0.45, n = 24, P < 0.001). On the southern side of the fjord, a significant positive relationship between larval and juvenile abundance was found in one area (r(2) = 0.62, n = 6, P < 0.05). The absolute mortality rate of plaice after settlement was related to the initial settlement density (r(2) = 0.95, n = 20. P < 0.001), and to the abundance of predatory shrimps Crangon crangon (r(2) = 0.44, n = 20, P < 0.01). Plaice otoliths were found in 6% of the shrimp stomachs analysed from an area with high density (13.3 m(-2)) of newly settled plaice. The present study suggests that the density of juvenile plaice was limited by larval supply to the nursery grounds. Consistency in the relative abundance of juveniles among nursery grounds between years also suggested that some nursery areas may be in the settlement shadow of others. The irregular nature of the coastline in combination with larval depletion could thereby cause small-scale (10(3)-10(4) m) variation in settlement densities of the same order of magnitude as the inter-annual variability in recruitment to individual nursery grounds.

Published in

Marine Biology
2001, Volume: 139, number: 5, pages: 877-889

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