Scaling of Connectivity in Marine Populations

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Science  27 Jan 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5760, pp. 522-527
DOI: 10.1126/science.1122039

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Defining the scale of connectivity, or exchange, among marine populations and determining the factors driving this exchange are pivotal to our understanding of the population dynamics, genetic structure, and biogeography of many coastal species. Using a high-resolution biophysical model for the Caribbean region, we report that typical larval dispersal distances of ecologically relevant magnitudes are on the scale of only 10 to 100 kilometers for a variety of reef fish species. We also show the importance of the early onset of active larval movement mediating the dispersal potential. In addition to self-recruitment, larval import from outside the local area is required to sustain most populations, although these population subsidies are very limited in particular systems. The results reveal distinct regions of population isolation based on larval dispersal that also correspond to genetic and morphological clines observed across a range of marine organisms.

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