The El Niño Southern Oscillation drives multidirectional inter-reef larval connectivity in the Great Barrier Reef

Gurdek-Bas, Rodrigo, Benthuysen, Jessica A., Harrison, Hugo B., Zenger, Kyall R., and van Herwerden, Lynne (2022) The El Niño Southern Oscillation drives multidirectional inter-reef larval connectivity in the Great Barrier Reef. Scientific Reports, 12 (1). 21290.

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The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the strongest source of interannual global climate variability, and extreme ENSO events are projected to increase in frequency under climate change. Interannual variability in the Coral Sea circulation has been associated with ENSO, although uncertainty remains regarding ENSO's influence on hydrodynamics and larval dispersal in the adjacent Great Barrier Reef (GBR). We investigated larval connectivity during ENSO events from 2010 to 2017 throughout the GBR, based on biophysical modelling of a widespread predatory reef fish, Lutjanus carponotatus. Our results indicate a well-connected system over the study period with high interannual variability in inter-reef connectivity associated with ENSO. Larval connectivity patterns were highly correlated to variations in the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI). During El Niño conditions and periods of weak SOI, larval dispersal patterns were predominantly poleward in the central and southern regions, reversing to a predominant equatorward flow during very strong SOI and extreme La Niña conditions. These ENSO-linked connectivity patterns were associated with positive connectivity anomalies among reefs. Our findings identify ENSO as an important source of variation in larval dispersal and connectivity patterns in the GBR, which can influence the stability of population dynamics and patterns of biodiversity in the region.

Item ID: 77564
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-2322
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2022. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC DE160101141
Date Deposited: 01 Mar 2023 00:58
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180504 Marine biodiversity @ 100%
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