Influence of habitat and population density on recruitment and spatial dynamics of the sea urchinParacentrotus lividus: implications for harvest refugia

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We studied the spatial variation in recruitment and the population dynamics of the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus, analysing the effect of depth and presence of sea urchin aggregations on population structure. Over 90% of the observed recruits (individuals under 1 year of age) were concentrated in aggregations found in shallow waters. In these areas, a positive linear relationship was found between adult and recruit density, possibly due to higher survival rates of juveniles taking refuge among the spines of adults. The scarcity of recruits and the presence of adult sea urchins at depths of 8 and 12 m suggest the migration of part of the population towards deep areas when individuals reach a size of ∼40 mm. In light of these results, the implementation of harvest refugia for sea urchins in shallow areas could constitute an effective fishery management tool for this species. High population densities could enhance recruitment, given the inverse density dependence of this process, while their migratory pattern would guarantee biomass exportation towards deeper fishing grounds.

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