Local retention, dispersal and fluctuating connectivity among populations of a coral reef fish

Abstract

The persistence and resilience of marine populations in the face of disturbances is directly affected by connectivity among populations. Thus, understanding the magnitude and pattern of connections among populations and the temporal variation in these patterns is critical for the effective management and conservation of marine species. Despite recent advances in our understanding of marine connectivity, few empirical studies have directly measured the magnitude or pattern of connections among populations of marine fishes, and none have explicitly investigated temporal variation in demographic connectivity. We use genetic assignment tests to track the dispersal of 456 individual larval fishes to quantify the extent of connectivity, dispersal, self-recruitment and local retention within and among seven populations of a coral reef fish (Stegastes partitus) over a three-year period. We found that some larvae do disperse long distances (~200 km); however, self-recruitment was a regular phenomenon. Importantly, we found that dispersal distances, self-recruitment, local retention and the pattern of connectivity varied significantly among years. Our data highlight the unpredictable nature of connectivity, and underscore the need for more, temporally replicated, empirical measures of connectivity to inform management decisions.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the Global Environment Facility-funded University of Queensland and World Bank project Coral Reef Targeted Research for Capacity Building and Management, by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Tier I Canada Research Chair grant to D.D.H., as well as a GLIER postdoctoral fellowship from the University of Windsor to J.D.H. We thank the University of Belize, Institute of Marine Studies, and D. Campbell-Smith for logistical support during the field collections; P. Usseglio, E. Salas, D. Hasselman and R. Walter for help with field collections; S. Jaimeson and R. Walter for statistical help; R. Walter for discussion; and S. Jamieson, S. Ellis, R. Walter, T. Pitcher, S. Planes and anonymous reviewers for comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to J. Derek Hogan.

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Communicated by Craig Osenberg.

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Hogan, J.D., Thiessen, R.J., Sale, P.F. et al. Local retention, dispersal and fluctuating connectivity among populations of a coral reef fish. Oecologia 168, 61–71 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-011-2058-1

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Keywords

  • Local retention
  • Self-recruitment
  • Dispersal kernel
  • Connectivity matrix
  • Metapopulation
  • Marine protected areas