Larval fish assemblages in nearshore coastal waters off central Chile: temporal and spatial patterns
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In this study we identified spatial and temporal patterns in the distribution and abundance of larval stages of several fish species in nearshore waters off central Chile. Larvae were sampled monthly at two close (20 km apart) but contrasting localities, El Quisco and Las Cruces. Surveys corresponded to standard plankton tows stratified according to bathymetry and distance from shore. Our results indicate that at both localities: (1) there is a seasonal reproductive pattern for most of the species studied; (2) there is a seasonal-related change in larval species composition and abundance, with austral Winter–Spring being the time of greatest diversity; (3) larval stages of several species that, as adults occupy intertidal, estuarine–riverine, subtidal, benthic-demersal, epipelagic or mesopelagic habitats, are found within these coastal environments; (4) there is a distinctive cross-shelf pattern of larval distribution, which seems to correspond, at least for the intertidal species, with the shallower (<30 m depth) portion of area surveyed; and (5) there is a coupling between the patterns of distribution and abundance of the entire ichthyoplankton assemblage with short-term physical features such as wind forcing, Ekman transport, and local currents. Our findings suggest that both the specific composition as well as the abundance of larval fish species varies spatially and temporally and that this variability may result from the interaction of physical and biological factors at different scales.