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Monitoring temporal and spatial spawning variability through molecular identification of marine fish eggs


Monitoring marine protected areas is essential in order to assess if they are effectively conserving marine species and their habitats. Long-term studies allow us to track changes in fish populations in response to environmental variability, and these data can aid in the management of protected areas and fished stocks. This study sampled ichthyoplankton from Scripps Pier for one year and identified them to species using DNA barcoding. These data were compared to results from Harada et al. (2015) and Duke et al. (2018), to look for variability in egg abundance and species diversity in response to seasonal temperature changes, including the record-breaking sea surface temperature recorded at Scripps Pier in August 2018. We observed peak egg abundance in June 2018, which was most similar to data from 2013 and 2014, a shift from later spawning seen in July or August during collections from 2015-2017. Overall egg abundance during the spring and summer months of 2018 and sea surface temperature data from the previous winter fits in with the correlation found in Duke, Harada, and Burton (2018). High temperatures recorded in August had no significant effect on number of eggs collected. In January 2019, sampling began at five other California locations, to establish baseline data and monitor sites across latitudes. Initial results have shown that species assemblages north and south of Point Conception, California are different from one another. Evaluating fish spawning in response to environmental variability over time and space will help with the management and conservation of marine resources.

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