Coral Reefs

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 169–179 | Cite as

Modeled connectivity of Acropora millepora populations from reefs of the Spratly Islands and the greater South China Sea

  • Jeffrey G. DormanEmail author
  • Frederic S. Castruccio
  • Enrique N. Curchitser
  • Joan A. Kleypas
  • Thomas M. Powell


The Spratly Island archipelago is a remote network of coral reefs and islands in the South China Sea that is a likely source of coral larvae to the greater region, but about which little is known. Using a particle-tracking model driven by oceanographic data from the Coral Triangle region, we simulated both spring and fall spawning events of Acropora millepora, a common coral species, over a 46-yr period (1960–2005). Simulated population biology of A. millepora included the acquisition and loss of competency, settlement over appropriate benthic habitat, and mortality based on experimental data. The simulations aimed to provide insights into the connectivity of reefs within the Spratly Islands, the settlement of larvae on reefs of the greater South China Sea, and the potential dispersal range of reef organisms from the Spratly Islands. Results suggest that (1) the Spratly Islands may be a significant source of A. millepora larvae for the Palawan reefs (Philippines) and some of the most isolated reefs of the South China Sea; and (2) the relatively isolated western Spratly Islands have limited source reefs supplying them with larvae and fewer of their larvae successfully settling on other reefs. Examination of particle dispersal without biology (settlement and mortality) suggests that larval connectivity is possible throughout the South China Sea and into the Coral Triangle region. Strong differences in the spring versus fall larval connectivity and dispersal highlight the need for a greater understanding of spawning dynamics of the region. This study confirms that the Spratly Islands are likely an important source of larvae for the South China Sea and Coral Triangle region.


Larval connectivity Coral reefs Individual-based modeling Coral Triangle South China Sea 



This work has been supported by the US National Science Foundation through Grant No. OCE-0816241. Computational resources were provided by NSF-MRI Grant CNS-0821794, MRI-Consortium: Acquisition of a Supercomputer by the Front Range Computing Consortium (FRCC).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey G. Dorman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Frederic S. Castruccio
    • 2
  • Enrique N. Curchitser
    • 3
    • 4
  • Joan A. Kleypas
    • 2
  • Thomas M. Powell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Climate and Global Dynamics DivisionNational Center for Atmospheric ResearchBoulderUSA
  3. 3.Institute of Marine and Coastal ScienceRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  4. 4.Department of Environmental SciencesRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

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