Large-scale, multidirectional larval connectivity among coral reef fish populations in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Williamson, David H., Harrison, Hugo B., Almany, Glenn R., Berumen, Michael L., Bode, Michael, Bonin, Mary C., Choukroun, Severine, Doherty, Peter J., Frisch, Ashley J., Saenz-Agudelo, Pablo, and Jones, Geoffrey P. (2016) Large-scale, multidirectional larval connectivity among coral reef fish populations in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Molecular Ecology, 25 (24). pp. 6039-6054.

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Larval dispersal is the key process by which populations of most marine fishes and invertebrates are connected and replenished. Advances in larval tagging and genetics have enhanced our capacity to track larval dispersal, assess scales of population connectivity, and quantify larval exchange among no-take marine reserves and fished areas. Recent studies have found that reserves can be a significant source of recruits for populations up to 40 km away, but the scale and direction of larval connectivity across larger seascapes remain unknown. Here, we apply genetic parentage analysis to investigate larval dispersal patterns for two exploited coral reef groupers (Plectropomus maculatus and Plectropomus leopardus) within and among three clusters of reefs separated by 60-220 km within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Australia. A total of 69 juvenile P. maculatus and 17 juvenile P. leopardus (representing 6% and 9% of the total juveniles sampled, respectively) were genetically assigned to parent individuals on reefs within the study area. We identified both short-distance larval dispersal within regions (200 m to 50 km) and long-distance, multidirectional dispersal of up to similar to 250 km among regions. Dispersal strength declined significantly with distance, with best-fit dispersal kernels estimating median dispersal distances of similar to 110 km for P. maculatus and similar to 190 km for P. leopardus. Larval exchange among reefs demonstrates that established reserves form a highly connected network and contribute larvae for the replenishment of fished reefs at multiple spatial scales. Our findings highlight the potential for long-distance dispersal in an important group of reef fishes, and provide further evidence that effectively protected reserves can yield recruitment and sustainability benefits for exploited fish populations.

Item ID: 47354
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-294X
Keywords: coral trout (Plectropomus spp.), Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, larval connectivity, no-take marine reserves, parentage analysis, recruitment
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This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

Funders: National Environment Research Program (NERP), Australian Research Council (ARC), Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)
Projects and Grants: ARC Linkage Grant
Research Data:
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2017 07:37
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 20%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 80%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 100%
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