What is connectivity? Why is it important to MPA design?
Nearly all marine organisms move during some period of their lives. Many species, such as rockfish and Dover sole, move long distances during the first phase of their lives (during larval dispersal), then settle and remain within a relatively small area or “home range.” Other animals, like king crab, routinely roam over large distances but come together for short times each year for mating. Still others migrate collectively from one home range to another and back again for feeding or reproduction. Humpback whales, for example, make yearly migrations between cold food-rich Alaskan waters and warm Hawaiian calving areas.
These various types of movements create biological connections between different areas of the world’s oceans, but we have little more than a rudimentary understanding of the scale over which this connectivity occurs. This lack of knowledge represents a fundamental obstacle to any comprehensive understanding of how populations of marine organisms change. Additionally, a lack of understanding of the distances and time scales over which connectivity occurs has limited the scientists’ ability to evaluate the design and potential benefits of MPAs. Furthermore, understanding the scales over which connectivity occurs is essential to predicting the effects of changes in the physical and biological environments of marine organisms. If we are to effectively manage and protect populations of marine species, we need to understand these biological connections, as well as the connections created by the movements of ishermen, and how they collectively influence the performance of MPAs.
What is the Connectivity team doing?
- Synthesizing existing information on movements of fishermen and marine organisms.
- Evaluating the influence of biological connectivity on MPA design.
- Identifying information gaps and recommending a research agenda to fill those gaps.
- Developing methods for calculating MPA effectiveness to explicitly account for the movement of marine organisms and fishermen.
What will the team learn?
We will better understand how marine populations are connected to each other. We will be able to determine if there are general guidelines concerning marine connectivity or whether there are regional or species-specific generalities that can be used for MPA design and management. We will start to develop methods for understanding how variation in connectivity can influence the performance of individual MPAs and provide tools for resource managers to better predict the effects of connectivity on different species of concern.
Deliverables for 2006-2007:
- A series of peer reviewed papers and reports.
- Novel analytical approaches for predicting connectivity in a spatial framework.
- Special symposia at the annual meetings of the American Fisheries Society and American Association for the Advancement of Science focused on marine connectivity.
- Integration of information into Fisheries Management Council process.
- Special symposium at the 59th Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute meeting on marine connectivity.
Return to the MPA Science Integration page.