Linking basin-scale connectivity, oceanography and population dynamics for the conservation and management of marine ecosystems

Aim Assessing the spatial structure and dynamics of marine populations is still a major challenge in ecology. The need to manage marine resources from ecosystem and large-scale perspectives is recognized, but our partial understanding of oceanic connectivity limits the implementation of globally pertinent conservation planning. Based on a biophysical model for the entire Mediterranean Sea, this study takes an ecosystem approach to connectivity and provides a systematic characterization of broad-scale larval dispersal patterns. It builds on our knowledge of population dynamics and discusses the ecological and management implications. Location The semi-enclosed Mediterranean Sea and its marine ecosystems are used as a case study to investigate broad-scale connectivity patterns and to relate them to oceanography and population dynamics. Methods A flow network is constructed by evenly subdividing the basin into sub-regions which are interconnected through the transport of larvae by ocean currents. It allows for the computation of various connectivity metrics required to evaluate larval retention and exchange. Results Our basin-scale model predicts that retention processes are weak in the open ocean while they are significant in the coastal ocean and are favoured along certain coastlines due to specific oceanographic features. Moreover, we show that wind-driven divergent (convergent, respectively) oceanic regions are systematically characterized by larval sources (sinks, respectively). Finally, although these connectivity metrics have often been studied separately in the literature, we demonstrate they are interrelated under particular conditions. Their integrated analysis facilitates the appraisal of population dynamics, informing both genetic and demographic connectivities. Main conclusions This modelling framework helps ecologists and geneticists to formulate improved hypotheses of population structures and gene flow patterns and to design their sampling strategy accordingly. It is also useful in the implementation and assessment of future protection strategies, such as coastal and offshore marine reserves, by accounting for large-scale dispersal patterns, a missing component of current ecosystem management.


Larval dispersal, local retention, marine connectivity, marine ecosystems, marine protected areas, Mediterranean Sea, population dynamics, population genetics, self-recruitment, source, sink dynamics

Full Text

Publisher's official version
133 Mo
Appendix 2 Connectivity proxies distribution and sensitivity analysis.
135 Mo
Appendix 3 Additional figures and table.
-21 Ko
Author's final draft
349 Mo
How to cite
Dubois Melodie, Rossi Vincent, Ser-Giacomi Enrico, Arnaud-Haond Sophie, Lopez Cristobal, Hernandez-Garcia Emilio (2016). Linking basin-scale connectivity, oceanography and population dynamics for the conservation and management of marine ecosystems. Global Ecology And Biogeography. 25 (5). 503-515.,

Copy this text