OOS 50-4 - Nearshore retention and population connectivity in upwelling regions: Estimating source strength and settlement in rocky shore metapopulations

Friday, August 12, 2011: 9:00 AM
14, Austin Convention Center
Steven G. Morgan1, J. Wilson White2, Sarah O. Hameed1 and Seth H. Miller3, (1)Bodega Marine Laboratory, University of California Davis, Bodega Bay, CA, (2)Biology and Marine Biology, University of North Carolina, Wilmington, Wilmington, NC, (3)University of California, Davis, Bodega Bay, CA

Connectivity among marine populations is poorly known, because we have little idea of where planktonic larvae go. Spatial variation in ocean currents can cause populations in some areas to receive or export more larvae than other populations, even though habitat quality may be similar among locations. However, our recent work suggests that sweeping generalizations regarding the role of oceanographic processes affecting larval transport and settlement in productive upwelling regions along the western margins of continents require much closer scrutiny to provide reliable information on larval connectivity between source and sink populations. Contrary to the prevailing view, larvae of most invertebrates appear to exert considerable control over their movements, remain very close to shore and recruit onshore in strong upwelling conditions. We test our conceptual model regarding the behavioral and physical mechanisms regulating cross-shelf transport, supply and connectivity across an upwelling cell using a representative species. We estimated connectivity using a Bayesian modeling approach in which prior estimates of larval transport and connectivity (a dispersal kernel) were combined with field estimates of habitat quality, larval production, and larval settlement to obtain updated estimates of connectivity patterns. 


Estimated connectivity patterns reveal considerable spatial heterogeneity in the strength of larval sources, a consequence of both variation in population density and estimated oceanographic dispersal distances. Our results indicate that larvae of many species may settle closer to natal habitats than is commonly believed, even in highly advective upwelling regimes. Estimates of population connectivity are key to managing fisheries and the designing and evaluating networks of marine protective areas, and we anticipate that our approach will be broadly applicable worldwide in situations where information on dispersal from larval tracers or circulation models is unavailable.

Copyright © . All rights reserved.
Banner photo by Flickr user greg westfall.