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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 661:127-145 (2021)  -  DOI:

Modelled larval supply predicts coral population recovery potential following disturbance

Marine Gouezo1,2,*, Eric Wolanski3, Kay Critchell4,5, Katharina Fabricius6, Peter Harrison2, Yimnang Golbuu1, Christopher Doropoulos7

1Palau International Coral Reef Center, PO Box 7086, Koror 96940, Palau
2Marine Ecology Research Centre, Southern Cross University, PO Box 157, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia
3TropWATER and College of Marine and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4810, Australia
4School of Life and Environmental Science, Deakin University, Geelong, VIC 3220, Australia
5School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD 4067, Australia
6Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB 3, Townsville, QLD 4810, Australia
7CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, St Lucia, QLD 4067, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: It is hypothesized that spatio-temporal variability in larval supply is caused by multiple biophysical drivers which correlate with the occurrence of recruitment pulses, influencing the recovery potential of coral reefs following large-scale disturbances. Here, we used a larval dispersal model to explore coral larvae dispersal patterns under variable oceanographic conditions, densities of parental colonies, and taxon-specific biology of propagules. Model predictions were validated with observed settlement and recruitment data to test the robustness of larval dispersal modelling for forecasting the recovery potential of study reefs. The model was applied to the western Pacific archipelago of Palau for 3 yr before and after major typhoon disturbances, and simulations were run and validated for 2 major broadcast-spawning reef-building taxa: Acropora and Porites. Investigations into the relative role of physical (currents, wind, waves) and biological (taxa, disturbance impact) parameters on overall larval supply show that low wind speeds and the intermittent occurrence of north and southwest oceanic currents contributed significantly to enhancing larval supply at the scale of the archipelago. Reduced parental colony densities on eastern reefs following disturbances did not have a major impact on predicted larval supply patterns. Relatively low larval supply to most of the disturbed eastern reefs is predicted during the most common oceanographic conditions, forecasting low recovery potential through larval recruitment. Mapping the spatio-temporal dynamics of larval supply and identifying barriers to dispersal from intact to disturbed reefs can help predict recovery patterns across reef communities.

KEY WORDS: Biophysical model · Recruitment · Currents · Coral · Larval supply · Recovery · Disturbance · Palau · Typhoon

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Cite this article as: Gouezo M, Wolanski E, Critchell K, Fabricius K, Harrison P, Golbuu Y, Doropoulos C (2021) Modelled larval supply predicts coral population recovery potential following disturbance. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 661:127-145.

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