Larval supply interacts with the physical, chemical, and biological aspects of marine benthic communities to influence the structure and dynamics of the adult communities. Despite the importance of the larval stage, only limited observations of the temporal, spatial, and genetic variability in larval supply exist and the impact on the benthos is largely unknown. My thesis focuses on characterizing the influence of regional hydrodynamics on temporal and spatial variability in larval supply.
The patchy, ephemeral vent environment necessitates dispersal of benthic organisms for population maintenance. I hope to contribute to the descriptive and mechanistic understanding of temporal, spatial and genetic variability in dispersal, and gain insight into the effects of variability on recruitment dynamics. Current understanding of larval dispersal at hydrothermal vents has been limited due to site accessibility, incomplete knowledge of the hydrodynamics and only a few larval collections in space and time. The current study collects time-series samples of larvae and current data, concurrent with a recruitment experiment with settlement blocks. Larval ecology and population genetic techniques will be combined to analyze the time-series data set and recruitment blocks to achieve new understanding of the patterns of temporal, spatial and genetic variability in larvae and recruitment as well as gain insight into the possible mechanisms driving the variability.