Patterns of settlement and postsettlement mortality determine the distribution and abundance of sessile marine organisms. In mangrove forests and on rocky shores of eastern Australia, the Sydney rock oyster, Saccostrea glomerata, displays a pattern of declining abundance with increasing tidal elevation that might be related to or independent of the tidal elevation gradient in the substrate (bare, dead conspecifics, live conspecifics) available for attachment. We conducted parallel manipulative experiments on a rocky shore and in a mangrove forest to assess (1) the relative importance of tidal elevation and substrate type (bare, live oysters, or dead oysters) in determining the spatial distribution of new (<1 mm) S. glomerata recruits and (2) the contribution of settlement and postsettlement processes in setting patterns of spatial variation in established oyster populations. Patches of habitat with either live oysters, dead oysters, or no conspecifics were established at 3 tidal elevations at each site, and natural settlement and postsettlement mortality were monitored through time. At each site, and regardless of the substrate provided, we detected a similar pattern of fewer new S. glomerata recruits and greater postsettlement mortality on the high intertidal shore rather than the mid or low intertidal shore. Substrate type, by contrast, influenced the abundance of new recruits, but not subsequent postsettlement mortality. Consequently, over a period of months, direct effects of tidal elevation rather than effects of substrate type determined spatial patterns of oyster recruitment on the rocky shore and in the mangrove. Consequently, we documented that on a rocky shore and in a mangrove forest, settlement and early postsettlement mortality vary similarly across tidal elevation gradients and substrate types to determine the distribution of S. glomerata.
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Vol. 31 • No. 4