Modeling climate-dependent larval growth rate and duration of Olympia oysters in the Salish Sea

Most invertebrates in the ocean begin their lives with a planktonic larval phase that is of utmost importance for dispersal and distribution of these species, especially for organisms that are sessile or otherwise mobility-limited during adult life. As larvae are particularly vulnerable to environmental change, holistic understanding of interacting climate stressors on larval life is important to predict population persistence and vulnerability of species. However, traditional experimental designs are often limited by resolution in understanding multiple stress relationships, as environmental variables in the ocean do not occur in discrete interacting levels. Here, I use a novel experimental approach to model growth rate and duration of Olympia oyster larvae and predict the suitability of habitats for larval survival in interacting gradients of temperature, salinity, and ocean acidification. I find that temperature and salinity are closely linked to larval growth and larval habitat suitability, but larvae are resistant to acidification. Olympia oyster larvae from populations in the Salish Sea exhibit higher growth rate and greater tolerance to habitats in near-future climate change conditions compared to present-day conditions in the Salish Sea, suggesting that this species will benefit from some degree of global ocean change. Using generalized linear modeling, I predict larval growth and duration in present-day and future oceanographic conditions in the Salish Sea, finding a vast decrease in mean pelagic larval duration by the year 2095. Using these data, I explore implications of these relationships for Olympia oysters across their range now and in the future.

Lawlor J. A., 2019. Modeling climate-dependent larval growth rate and duration of Olympia oysters in the Salish Sea. MSc thesis, Western Washington University, 60pp. Thesis.

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