Coral Reefs

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 369–381 | Cite as

The application of acoustic Doppler current profilers to measure the timing and patterns of coral larval dispersal

  • C. D. Storlazzi
  • E. K. Brown
  • M. E. Field


An experiment was conducted along the reefs off west Maui, Hawaii, during the summer of 2003 to monitor the spawning of the reef-building coral Montipora capitata and to determine the role of ocean currents in dispersing the larvae from the natal reef. Instruments documented the environmental forcing during the coral spawning season; drifters were deployed on three successive nights following direct observations of coral spawning. Both the timing and relative magnitude of the coral spawning were identifiable in acoustic backscatter data and correlated to plankton tow data. Each drifter track showed that the surface water containing coral eggs and planula larvae were transported rapidly offshore and not locally retained. Wind and current patterns during the previous year and during subsequent coral spawning events later in the summer were similar to those observed during the drifter releases. This suggests that the trajectories observed during the focused experiment are representative of the general pattern of larval dispersal off west Maui. These findings demonstrate the application of acoustic profilers for remotely imaging coral spawning and predicting their initial dispersal patterns.


Coral spawning Coral larvae Currents Drifters Acoustic backscatter Montipora capitata 



This work was carried out as part of the USGS’s Pacific Coral Reef Project, an effort in the U.S. and its trust territories to better understand the effect of geologic processes on coral reef systems. Andrea Ogston (UW), Kathy Presto, Dave Gonzales, Tom Reiss, Gerry Hatcher, Josh Logan (USGS), Allan Ligon (UH), Donna Brown (MCCC), Skippy Hau (HI-DAR) and Joe Reich, the captain of the R/V Alyce C., deserve special credit for committing an enormous amount of time and effort into all aspects of the fieldwork. We would also like to thank Jessica Lacy, Amy Draut (USGS), Richard Dunne the reviewers at Coral Reefs who contributed numerous excellent suggestions and a timely review of our work. Use of trademark names does not imply USGS endorsement of products.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.US Geological SurveyPacific Science CenterSanta CruzUSA
  2. 2.National Park Service, Kalaupapa National Historic ParkKalaupapaUSA

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