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

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

Hogan, J. D., Thiessen, R. J., Sale, P. F., & Heath, D. D. (2012). Local retention, dispersal and fluctuating connectivity among populations of a coral reef fish. Oecologia, 168(1), 61-71.

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.