Population connectivity shifts at high frequency within an open-coast marine protected area network

TitlePopulation connectivity shifts at high frequency within an open-coast marine protected area network
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsCook G.S, Parnell P.E, Levin L.A
JournalPlos One
Date Published2014/07
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number1932-6203
Accession NumberWOS:000339954800063
Keywordscoral-reef fish; dispersal; larval connectivity; metapopulations; patterns; persistence; recruitment; replenishment; reserves; swimming abilities

A complete understanding of population connectivity via larval dispersal is of great value to the effective design and management of marine protected areas (MPA). However empirical estimates of larval dispersal distance, self-recruitment, and within season variability of population connectivity patterns and their influence on metapopulation structure remain rare. We used high-resolution otolith microchemistry data from the temperate reef fish Hypsypops rubicundus to explore biweekly, seasonal, and annual connectivity patterns in an open-coast MPA network. The three MPAs, spanning 46 km along the southern California coastline were connected by larval dispersal, but the magnitude and direction of connections reversed between 2008 and 2009. Self-recruitment, i.e. spawning, dispersal, and settlement to the same location, was observed at two locations, one of which is a MPA. Self-recruitment to this MPA ranged from 50-84%; within the entire 60 km study region, self-recruitment accounted for 45% of all individuals settling to study reefs. On biweekly time scales we observed directional variability in alongshore current data and larval dispersal trajectories; if viewed in isolation these data suggest the system behaves as a source-sink metapopulation. However aggregate biweekly data over two years reveal a reef network in which H. rubicundus behaves more like a well-mixed metapopulation. As one of the few empirical studies of population connectivity within a temperate open coast reef network, this work can inform the MPA design process, implementation of ecosystem based management plans, and facilitate conservation decisions.

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