Because of methodological problems, macrobenthic studies usually neglect the juvenile stages of invertebrate communities, due to the fact that appearance of recruits in samples is only detected some weeks or even months after their true recruitment. During this period, the temporary meiobenthos undergoes high rates of mortality. From year to year, juvenile survival rate is thus responsible for temporal patterns observed in adult population densities.
The results presented here relate to the population dynamics of the tellinid bivalve Macoma balthica (L.). A study of temporary meiobenthos was conducted over two consecutive years in an intertidal Macoma-community located at the mouth of the Gironde Estuary in southwest France. Sampling of juvenile stages required short intervals (2 weeks) between successive samplings and a fine sieving mesh size (63 µm). Other population parameters, such as temporal patterns in density, reproductive cycle, and individual growth, were recorded.
Recruitment processes showed a year-to-year variability, with regard to settlement density, settlement period, and survival rate. In 1983, recruitment was moderate and protracted over several months. Only one main recruitment period was detected in 1984, resulting in a high juvenile density. In a previous study (1977), by contrast, recruitment was almost non-existent.
This variability is discussed as a function of climatic and sedimentological conditions which prevailed in the estuary throughout the study period. However, none of these physical factors appeared to underlie the recruitment fluctuation in Macoma balthica. It is suggested that biological interactions are of prime importance in regulating population densities in this community.