This study examines the role of seasonality and physical and biological disturbance on population recruitment, growth, and survival in a seaweed-dominated, continental shelf community off North Carolina. Field experiments indicated that seasonal differences in larval and spore recruitment,
growth rates, and differing invasion abilities resulted in distinctive initial settlement patterns of invertebrate and seaweed populations following provision of space. In areas of high physical disturbance (storm surge and strong current flow), season of disturbance had little long-term effect
and the courses of development converged to that of the surrounding undisturbed area. As levels of physical (storm surge) and biological (predation) disturbance were reduced, the courses of population development diverged, reflecting varying competitive abilities of established populations.
In the absence of predators and storm surge, seasonal variations in species' dominance occurred on the settling surfaces and no single species emerged as the competitive dominant. Results indicate that dominance by brown seaweed species at the study site is due to recruitment by vegetative
spread following disturbance and to the presence of perennating vegetative structures. Infrequent recruitment by spores by the dominant species and the seasonal variation in dominance of settling organisms on the plates suggest that no species is capable of the sort of long-term dominance
evinced in intertidal systems.
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