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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13608

Modelled larval supply predicts coral population recovery potential following disturbance

Marine Gouezo*, Eric Wolanski, Kay Critchell, Katharina Fabricius, Peter Harrison, Yimnang Golbuu, Christopher Doropoulos

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: It is hypothesized that the spatio-temporal variability in larval supply is caused by multiple bio-physical drivers that correlate with the occurrence of ‘recruitment pulses’, which influences 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 taxa-specific differences in the 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 the study reefs. The model was applied to the Western Pacific archipelago of Palau during three years before and after major typhoon disturbances, and simulations were run and validated for two 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 south-west oceanic currents contributed significantly to enhancing larval supply at the scale of the archipelago. The reduced parental colony densities on the eastern reefs following the disturbances did not have a major impact on predicted larval supply patterns. Relatively low larval supply to most of the disturbed eastern reefs are predicted during the most common oceanographic conditions, forecasting a low recovery potential through larval recruitment. Mapping the spatio-temporal dynamics of larval supply and identifying dispersal barriers from intact to disturbed reefs can help predict recovery patterns across reef communities.