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Connectivity of lobster (Homarus americanus) populations in the coastal Gulf of Maine: part II. Coupled biophysical dynamics

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We used a coupled biophysical model to investigate larval transport and connectivity patterns in the Gulf of Maine lobster (Homarus americanus) population. Biological ‘particles’ were released at over 21 000 locations every 10 days over a 4-month hatching period, and were followed from hatching through late postlarval stage. In addition to circulation and dispersion, model calculations included spatial patterns of egg production, temporal patterns of hatching, temperature-dependent development, vertical distribution and mortality. We ran the model for three larval production seasons using the same hatching patterns and individual-based modeling parameters but different flow patterns in the coastal current system. Model results gave distribution and abundance patterns of competent postlarvae that closely resembled observed, alongshore patterns of lobster settlement density. We evaluated the relative contribution of all source regions to the total number of competent postlarvae in a series of medium-size zones along the coastal shelf, many of which are used in lobster management. Connectivity depended on many factors, including patterns of egg production and transport, and the location and size of the receiving zones. Self recruitment ranged from a few percent to >90% of competent postlarvae. Although it was common for postlarvae to come from many, often distant, sources, most of the competent postlarvae in a zone originated within one to two zones in the prevailing ‘up-stream’ direction, forming shorter connections along the coast than the energetic currents might otherwise suggest. Inshore migrations during summer hatching may contribute to these shorter patterns of connectivity. Transport in the prevailing ‘upstream’ direction was also indicated.
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Keywords: Homarus americanus; advection; coastal current; connectivity; coupled biophysical model; egg production; hatching; individual-based model; larvae; lobster; mortality; postlarvae; transport

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469-5741, USA 2: Aquatic Systems Group, University of Southern Maine, Portland, ME 04101, USA 3: Maine Deparment of Marine Resources, West Boothbay Harbor, ME 04538, USA 4: Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, West Boothbay Harbor, ME 04538, USA 5: St Andrews Biological Station, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, St Andrews, NB E5B 2L9, Canada

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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