From Individuals to Processes: Scaling up Climate-Dependent Larval Growth Rates and Behaviors to Population Distributions of Oysters in a Changing Ocean

Jake Lawlor, Shawn Arellano

1Department of Biology and Shannon Point Marine Center, Western Washington University, Anacortes, WA, USA


In the field of climate change ecology, severe lethal impacts of climate-related stress are well documented, but the more subtle effects of global change on organisms and their influence on larger-scale processes remain poorly understood. In marine invertebrates, slight climate-driven changes in growth rate and behavior during the larval stages may be among the most important changes to consider, as they may ultimately influence dispersal distance, population connectivity, and range shift potential of organisms. This study uses laboratory observations of larval growth rates and swimming behaviors of Olympia oysters, Ostrea lurida, cultured in interacting gradients of temperature, salinity, and pCO2 to assess effects of climate stress on larvae in a wide range of potential future ocean conditions. We model functional relationships of environmental conditions on planktonic duration and behavior of oyster larvae and propose a statistical vertical distribution model of oyster larval cohorts in present and future water columns. By incorporating this vertical distribution model into 3-dimensional hydrodynamic models of the Salish Sea, we can analyze climate-dependent changes in dispersal and connectivity between Washington State’s 19 established restoration sites for the species in present and future hydrodynamic conditions to better inform the restoration plan for the species in a changing ocean.

Key Words: larval transport, multiple stressors, modeling

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