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Larval transport and retention of the spiny lobster, Panulirus argus, in the coastal zone of the Florida Keys, USA

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The spiny lobster Panulirus argus is of ecological and commercial importance in the South Florida coast of the continental USA and throughout the Intra-Americas Sea. Essential spiny lobster habitat in South Florida is primarily located in the Florida Keys coastal zone (including the Dry Tortugas), where the dynamic regional circulation coupled with the long planktonic larval duration (6–12 months) of P. argus raises questions of larval retention and recruitment. Locally spawned phyllosomata entrained in the Florida Current are likely to be expatriated out of the Straits of Florida, which implies that the local spiny lobster population is sustained by the transport of larval recruits from upstream locations. We examined the physical processes that may influence recruitment. Transport processes in the Keys coastal zone are spatially variable. Observed and modelled data suggest that the upper Keys is a point of onshore larval transport via the inshore meandering of the Florida Current, and the lower Keys to Dry Tortugas region apoint of retention through wind-driven onshore/countercurrents and eddy recirculation. Eddies that propagate between the Dry Tortugas and the lower Keys facilitate the exchange of larvae between the Florida Current and the coastal zone. Northerly wind events associated with cold fronts can enhance recirculation of larvae in the upper Keys. The association of older larvae with the Florida Current front supports the hypothesis that spiny lobster larval recruits come from upstream sources in the Caribbean.

Keywords: countercurrent; eddy; front; larval supply; recirculation; recruitment; transport model; wind

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Division of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149, USA

Publication date: September 1, 2002


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