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Carson, HS, Cook GS, Lopez-Duarte PC, Levin LA.  2011.  Evaluating the importance of demographic connectivity in a marine metapopulation. Ecology. 92:1972-1984. AbstractWebsite

Recently researchers have gone to great lengths to measure marine metapopulation connectivity via tagging, genetic, and trace-elemental fingerprinting studies. These empirical estimates of larval dispersal are key to assessing the significance of metapopulation connectivity within a demographic context, but the life-history data required to do this are rarely available. To evaluate the demographic consequences of connectivity we constructed seasonal, size-structured metapopulation matrix models for two species of mytilid mussel in San Diego County, California, USA. The self-recruitment and larval exchange terms were produced from a time series of realized connectivities derived from trace-elemental fingerprinting of larval shells during spring and fall from 2003 to 2008. Both species exhibited a strong seasonal pattern of southward movement of recruits in spring and northward movement in fall. Growth and mortality terms were estimated using mark recapture data from representative sites for each species and subpopulation, and literature estimates of juvenile mortality. Fecundity terms were estimated using county-wide settlement data from 2006-2008; these data reveal peak reproduction and recruitment in fall for Mytilus californianus, and spring for M. galloprovincialis. Elasticity and life-stage simulation analyses were employed to identify the season- and subpopulation-specific vital rates and connectivity terms to which the metapopulation growth rate (lambda) was most sensitive. For both species, metapopulation growth was most sensitive to proportional changes in adult fecundity, survival and growth of juvenile stages, and population connectivity, in order of importance, but relatively insensitive to adult growth or survival. The metapopulation concept was deemed appropriate for both Mytilus species as exchange between the subpopulations was necessary for subpopulation persistence. However, highest metapopulation growth occurred in years when a greater proportion of recruits was retained within the predominant source subpopulation. Despite differences in habitat and planktonic duration, both species exhibited similar overall metapopulation dynamics with respect to key life stages and processes. However, different peak reproductive periods in an environment of seasonal current reversals led to different regional (subpopulation) contributions to metapopulation maintenance; this result emphasizes the importance of connectivity analysis for spatial, management of coastal resources.

Fodrie, FJ, Becker BJ, Levin LA, Gruenthal K, McMillan PA.  2011.  Connectivity clues from short-term variability in settlement and geochemical tags of mytilid mussels. Journal of Sea Research. 65:141-150.   10.1016/j.seares.2010.09.001   AbstractWebsite

The use of geochemical tags in calcified structures of fish and invertebrates is an exciting tool for investigating larval population connectivity. Tag evaluation over relatively short intervals (weeks) may detect environmental and ecological variability at a temporal scale highly relevant to larval transport and settlement. We collected newly settled mussels (Mytilus californianus and M. galloprovincialis) weekly during winter/spring of 2002 along the coast of San Diego, CA, USA, at sites on the exposed coast (SIO) and in a protected coastal bay (HI), to investigate temporal patterns of geochemical tags in mussel shells. Analyses of post-settlement shell via LA-ICP-MS revealed statistically significant temporal variability for all elements we examined (Mg, Mn, Cu, Sr, Cd, Ba, Pb and U). Despite this, our ability to distinguish multielemental signatures between sites was largely conserved. Throughout our 13-week study, SIO and HI mussels could be chemically distinguished from one another in 78-87% of all cases. Settlement varied between 2 and 27 settlers grambyssus(-1) week(-1) at 510 and HI, and both sites were characterized by 2-3 weeks with "high" settlement. Geochemical tags recorded in early larval shell of newly settled mussels differed between "high" and "low" settlement weeks at both sites (MANOVA), driven by Mg and Sr at SIO (p = 0.013) and Sr, Cd, Ba and Pb at HI (p < 0.001). These data imply that shifts in larval sources or transport corridors were responsible for observed settlement variation, rather than increased larval production. In particular, increased settlement at HI was observed concurrent with the appearance of geochemical tags (e.g., elevated Cd), suggesting that those larvae were retained in upwelled water near the mouth of the bay. Such shifts may reflect short-term changes in connectivity among sites due to altered transport corridors, and influence the demography of local populations. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Rasmussen, LL, Cornuelle BD, Levin LA, Largier JL, Di Lorenzo E.  2009.  Effects of small-scale features and local wind forcing on tracer dispersion and estimates of population connectivity in a regional scale circulation model. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 114   10.1029/2008jc004777   AbstractWebsite

A small-scale model of the Southern California-Northern Baja California coastline has been developed to explore dispersion over the continental shelf, with specific attention to physical parameters pertinent to simulations of larval dispersal and population connectivity. The ROMS simulation employs a nested grid system, with an inner domain resolution of 600 m and an outer domain resolution of 1.5 km. Realistic bathymetry and forcing were employed to investigate the effects of passive transport of tracers introduced at locations with known communities of mytilid mussels along the coastline. The effects of topographic resolution, boundary conditions, and choice of meteorological forcing products on dispersion rates, tracer trajectories, and the subsequent measures of population connectivity were examined. In particular, the choice of wind forcing product resulted in different circulation patterns and tracer trajectories and had especially important consequences on measures of larval connectivity such as self-seeding, potential for larval settlement ( import), and contribution to the pool of available larvae ( export). While some forcing products performed better when model data were compared to field measurements, no product was clearly superior. The uncertainty in results, which may appear minor in larger-scale temperature or surface velocity fields, is significant when examining a sensitive passive tracer. This modeling uncertainty needs to be addressed when interpreting connectivity results.