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Free Content The physics of blue crab larval recruitment in Delaware Bay: A model study

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Recent studies have shown that the tidal-, wind- and buoyancy-driven surface currents govern the transport of blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) larvae within the coastal ocean and estuaries. Here, we develop a model of larval transport within Delaware Bay and the adjoining coastal ocean using a particle advection scheme coupled to a previously validated physical circulation model which includes realistic tidal forcing, bottom bathymetry, wind stress and river discharge. The coupled model is then used to quantify the effects of several mechanisms on larval transport and recruitment in this region and hindcast actual larval settlement for a four-year period.

The model is run for the years 1989–1992 and compared with observations of larval settlement collected in the Broadkill River, a small tributary to Delaware Bay. It is able to reproduce all of the major observed recruitment events in 1990–1992, suggesting that larval recruitment is primarily driven by the physical mechanisms included in the model. Analysis of the modeled particle trajectories and the settlement data reveals that wind stress is the dominant mechanism in the determination of the timing of the settlement events, while horizontal diffusion and mortality determine the magnitude of the events. The model fails to agree with observations in 1989, indicating that small-scale physical events as well as larval behavior not reproduced in the numerical model can be important in larval settlement.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2005

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  • The Journal of Marine Research, one of the oldest journals in American marine science, publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. Biological studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. The editors strive always to serve authors and readers in the academic oceanographic community by publishing papers vital to the marine research in the long and rich tradition of the Sears Foundation for Marine Research. We welcome you to the Journal of Marine Research.
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