Effects of local environmental factors and spatial habitat characteristics on the density of a marine gastropod, Megastraea undosa (Wood 1828)



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The ability to identify and define factors which affect the abundance of marine species has been a primary goal of many ecologists. The need to accurately quantify the relationship between an organism and its environment is of critical importance in cases where that organism is the object of commercial harvest and tied to the economic well being of communities. This is especially evident for communities located along the Pacific coast of the Baja California peninsula where local fishing cooperative and their associated communities are dependent on the continuing successful harvest of a limited number of marine species, one of these being the marine gastropod Megastraea undosa (Wood, 1828). I conducted a multi-scale observational study investigating the effects of scale and selected local environmental and regional habitat characteristics of subtidal rocky reefs on the density of M. undosa. The study showed that M. undosa density varied significantly at two scales: quadrat (m2) and reef (100s m2). At the reef level, area and percent total cover were found to have a significant positive relationship with M. undosa density. No measured variable showed a significant association to M. undosa density at the quadrat level. Results suggest that both local and regional factors combine to affect M. undosa density and that their impacts on M. undosa density warrants further study.