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Spatial and temporal variation in the species diversity of coastal California fish eggs

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Ichthyoplankton studies can be used to assess the abundance, distribution, and reproductive activity of marine fishes, but few studies have monitored spawning activity at inshore sites. This study utilized weekly plankton sampling to construct a year-long time series of fish spawning at 6 pier sites along the California coast—Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Newport Beach, and La Jolla; sampling at the La Jolla site continues ongoing monitoring initiated in 2012. Fish eggs were sorted from the collected plankton and identified to species level using DNA barcoding of the COI and 16S genes. While only one year of data has been collected from 5 of the sites, the 2 sites north of Point Conception show markedly reduced diversity compared to the southern sites. Although the species observed reflect the local environment of each site, this pattern of reduced diversity at the northern sites is consistent with the well-documented decline in species richness with latitude along the California coast. The 7-year time series from La Jolla has revealed that spawning activity varies greatly among years, both in terms of egg production and species diversity, with a continuing trend of highest egg numbers in years with colder average winter sea surface temperature.

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