Publications

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2008
Fodrie, FJ, Levin LA.  2008.  Linking juvenile habitat utilization to population dynamics of California halibut. Limnology and Oceanography. 53:799-812.   10.4319/lo.2008.53.2.0799   AbstractWebsite

We investigated the nursery role of four coastal ecosystems for the California halibut (Paralichthys californicus) using the following metrics: (1) contribution in producing the fish that advance to older age classes, (2) connectivity of coastal systems resulting from migration of fish from juvenile to subadult habitats, and (3) effect of nursery habitat usage and availability on subadult population size, specifically evaluating the concentration hypothesis. Potential nurseries were grouped using a robust classification scheme that segregated exposed, bay, lagoon, and estuarine environments. Assignment of nursery origins for individual subadult fish via elemental fingerprinting indicated that exposed coasts, bays, lagoons, and estuaries contributed 31%, 65%, 1%, and 3% of advancing juvenile halibut during 2003, versus 49%, 33%, 16%, and 2% during 2004, respectively. These results were remarkably similar to "expected'' nursery contributions derived from field surveys, suggesting that in this system juvenile distributions were a good indicator of unit-area productivity of juvenile habitats and that density-dependent mechanisms during the juvenile phase did not regulate recruitment pulses. Elemental fingerprinting also demonstrated that individuals egressing from bays did not migrate far from their nursery origins (, 10 km), resulting in reduced connectivity along the 110-km study region over the timescale of approximately one generation. Consequently, we observed considerably higher subadult densities at sites near large bays, while populations distant from large bays appeared to be more influenced by nursery habitat limitation. Over large (similar to 100 km) scales, the location and availability of nursery habitat alternatives had significant effects on the population dynamics of an important member of the ichthyofaunal community of southern California.

2007
Thorrold, SR, Zacherl DC, Levin LA.  2007.  Population connectivity and larval dispersal using geochemical signatures in calcified structures. Oceanography. 20:80-89.   dx.doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2007.31   AbstractWebsite

The importance of larval dispersal to the population dynamics and biogeography of marine organisms has been recognized for almost a century (Hjort, 1914; Thorson, 1950). More recently, theoretical studies have highlighted the role that connectivity may play in determining the resilience of marine populations (Hastings and Botsford, 2006). Effective spatial management of marine capture fisheries, including the design of marine reserve networks, also requires an understanding of population connectivity (Sale et al., 2005). However, remarkably few empirical estimates of larval dispersal or population connectivity in ocean environments exist.

Becker, BJ, Levin LA, Fodrie FJ, McMillan PA.  2007.  Complex larval connectivity patterns among marine invertebrate populations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 104:3267-3272.   10.1073/pnas.0611651104   AbstractWebsite

Based on the belief that marine larvae, which can spend days to months in the planktonic stage, could be transported considerable distances by ocean currents, it has long been assumed that populations of coastal species with a planktonic larval stage are demographically open and highly "connected." Such assumptions about the connectivity of coastal populations govern approaches to managing marine resources and shape our fundamental understanding of population dynamics and evolution, yet are rarely tested directly due to the small size and high mortality of marine larvae in a physically complex environment. Here, we document a successful application of elemental fingerprinting as a tracking tool to determine sources of settled invertebrates and show that coastal mussel larvae, previously thought to be highly dispersed, can be retained within 20-30 km of their natal origin. We compare two closely related and co-occurring species, Mytilus californianus and Mytilus galloprovincialis, and determine that, despite expected similarities, they exhibit substantially different connectivity patterns. Our use of an in situ larval culturing technique overcomes the previous challenge of applying microchemical tracking methods to species with completely planktonic development. The exchange of larvae and resulting connectivities among marine populations have fundamental consequences for the evolution and ecology of species and for the management of coastal resources.