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Linkages between larvae and recruitment of coral reef fishes along the Florida Keys Shelf: an integrated field and modeling analysis of population connectivity in a complex system (2006-2011)
PIs: Robert Cowen, Su Sponaugle, Claire Paris (RSMAS, University of Miami), Villy Kourafalou (RSMAS, University of Miami)
Funding Source: National Science Foundation
Our recent research into the connectivity of reef fishes in the Florida Keys entailed a collaborative, interdisciplinary NSF-sponsored project that integrated intensive field sampling with biophysical modeling to define dispersal kernels for reef fish populations in an oceanographically dynamic regions. We linked high-resolution shipboard ichthyoplankton and physical oceanographic sampling along and upstream of the Florida Keys to simultaneous reef-based sampling of larval supply and juvenile recruitment. For her dissertation, Kathryn Shulzitski examined the distributions of fish larvae along the Florida Keys (Shulzitski et al. 2017) and found significant differences in the growth of larvae collected from within vs. outside of mesoscale eddies (Shulzitski et al. 2015) as well as their preferential success during settlement (Shulzitski et al. 2016). Evan D’Alessandro also “tracked” larval cohorts of commercially important fish from the pelagic realm to nearshore reefs through the analysis of their otolith growth trajectories (D’Alessandro et al. 2013). Martha Hauff further compared larval growth and condition indices of fish larvae with distance from shore, finding that nearshore larvae grow faster and are of higher condition than those collected offshore (Hauff 2012). Several undergraduates also used otolith analysis to examine spatial and temporal patterns in growth (and selective mortality) of larval reef fish and clupeids (Lisa Havel, Jennifer Boulay, Kayelyn Simmons, Jared Robbins). Empirical data were incorporated into a coupled biophysical model (a comprehensive three-dimensional hydrodynamic model coupled with a Lagrangian particle tracking model, which was run iteratively to quantify the probabilities that larvae settling to the Florida Keys were sourced from local versus upstream sources (Sponaugle et al. 2012a).
Other lab research supported by this project include a blue-water field study of the orientation and navigation abilities of a coral reef fish (Huebert & Sponaugle 2009), and an experimental analysis of nighttime predation on settling fish larvae (D’Alessandro & Sponaugle 2011). Continuation of our monthly reef fish recruitment survey through 2010 comprised a 7-yr baseline time series on recruitment magnitude and timing and enabled us to compare recruitment to reserves and non-reserves for a suite of reef fish species (Sponaugle et al. 2012b).
Field, laboratory, and shipboard efforts were coordinated by Senior Research Associates Cedric Guigand and Kristen Delano Walter, and Morgan Witman, a high school science teacher, was selected by the National Science Foundation ARMADA program to participate in our second 2007 cruise. Her experience is fully documented in her online journal. Here are links to the physical oceanographic data and biological data.
Photos by Cedric Guigand and Evan D’Alessandro