Assessment of mesophotic coral ecosystem connectivity for proposed expansion of a marine sanctuary in the Northwest Gulf of Mexico: larval dynamics

Garavelli, Lysel, Studivan, Michael S., Voss, Joshua D., Kuba, Alyson, Figueiredo, Joana, and Chérubin, Laurent M. (2018) Assessment of mesophotic coral ecosystem connectivity for proposed expansion of a marine sanctuary in the Northwest Gulf of Mexico: larval dynamics. Frontiers in Marine Science, 5. 174.

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In coral reef ecosystems, mesophotic coral habitat (> 30 m to the end of the photic zone) are extensions of shallow reefs and contribute to the persistence of coral reef populations. In the North West Gulf of Mexico (NW GOM), the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) is an isolated reef ecosystem comprising contiguous shallow and mesophotic reefs habitats on two central banks along the margin of the continental shelf. A future expansion of the sanctuary is proposed to include additional mesophotic banks and aims at building a network of protected areas in the NW GOM to ensure the persistence of the coral reef populations inhabiting the sanctuary. To evaluate the feasibility of this expansion and investigate the overall dynamics of coral species in the region, we studied the patterns of larval connectivity of Montastraea cavernosa, a common depth generalist coral species, using a larval dispersal modeling approach. Our results highlighted larval exports from the NW GOM banks to the northeastern and southwestern GOM, larval connectivity between all banks investigated in this study, and the potential for exporting larvae from mesophotic to shallower reefs. Our study associated with Studivan and Voss (2018; associate manuscript) demonstrates the relevance of combining modeling and genetic methods to consider both demographic and genetic timescales for the evaluation of the connectivity dynamics of marine populations. In the case of the NW GOM, both studies support the future management plan for expanding FGBNMS.

Item ID: 58517
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2296-7745
Keywords: Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary; Larval connectivity; Marine spatial planning; Mesophotic coral ecosystems; Montastraea cavernosa; Northwest Gulf of Mexico; Sanctuary expansion
Copyright Information: © 2018 Garavelli, Studivan, Voss, Kuba, Figueiredo and Chérubin. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Funders: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Ocean Exploration and Research
Projects and Grants: NOAA NA09OAR4320073, NOAA NA14OAR4320260
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2019 23:32
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
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