Inter-Research > MEPS > v731 > p51-65  
Marine Ecology Progress Series

via Mailchimp

MEPS 731:51-65 (2024)  -  DOI:

Comparing approaches for estimating ecological connectivity at a local scale in a marine system

Arieanna C. Balbar1,*, Anna Metaxas1, Yongsheng Wu2

1Dalhousie University, Department of Oceanography, 1355 Oxford Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4R2, Canada
2Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia B2Y 4A2, Canada
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Connections among habitat patches through propagule dispersal are critical for designing effective networks of marine protected areas. To meet targets, managers need a diverse toolkit for translating patterns of connectivity to actionable metrics through specific size, spacing, and siting recommendations. Measuring ecological connectivity in the marine realm is particularly challenging because of water movement and the lack of distinct physical boundaries. Additionally, tracking most propagules is not logistically feasible. Here, we compared 3 approaches of increasing complexity for predicting potential ecological connectivity (measured as passive dispersal by ocean currents) of kelps and 2 resident invertebrates, the dominant macrograzer Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis and a destructive invasive epiphyte (Membranipora membranacea) among habitat patches along the NW Atlantic coast of Canada. The 3 approaches differ in the complexity of estimating ocean currents: current speed depth-averaged over time (1D); current velocity decomposed into along-shore and cross-shore components depth-averaged over time (2D); and spatially modelled current velocity derived from a 3D hydrodynamic model (3D). We found that the 1D approach was adequate for taxa with a short competent propagule duration (CPD), but that dispersal for the 2D and 3D approaches were most similar for medium-long CPD dispersers at the scale of management units, likely because they both account for the directionality of currents, whereas the 1D approach does not. This research helps bridge the gap between connectivity research and ocean management by demonstrating that the 2D approach requires less data, time, and resources while still providing adequate outputs at the scale of management units.

KEY WORDS: Marine protected area · Dispersal · Kelp beds · Ocean currents · Hydrodynamic model · Coastal marine ecosystems · NW Atlantic Ocean · Life history traits · Ocean management

Full text in pdf format
Supplementary material
Cite this article as: Balbar AC, Metaxas A, Wu Y (2024) Comparing approaches for estimating ecological connectivity at a local scale in a marine system. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 731:51-65.

Export citation
Share:    Facebook - - linkedIn

 Previous article Next article