Population Connectivity Measures of Fishery-Targeted Coral Reef Species to Inform Marine Reserve Network Design in Fiji

Eastwood, Erin K.; Lopez, Elora H.; Drew, Joshua Adam

Coral reef fish serve as food sources to coastal communities worldwide, yet are vulnerable to mounting anthropogenic pressures like overfishing and climate change. Marine reserve networks have become important tools for mitigating these pressures, and one of the most critical factors in determining their spatial design is the degree of connectivity among different populations of species prioritized for protection. To help inform the spatial design of an expanded reserve network in Fiji, we used rapidly evolving mitochondrial genes to investigate connectivity patterns of three coral reef species targeted by fisheries in Fiji: Epinephelus merra (Serranidae), Halichoeres trimaculatus (Labridae), and Holothuria atra (Holothuriidae). The two fish species, E. merra and Ha. trimaculatus, exhibited low genetic structuring and high amounts of gene flow, whereas the sea cucumber Ho. atra displayed high genetic partitioning and predominantly westward gene flow. The idiosyncratic patterns observed among these species indicate that patterns of connectivity in Fiji are likely determined by a combination of oceanographic and ecological characteristics. Our data indicate that in the cases of species with high connectivity, other factors such as representation or political availability may dictate where reserves are placed. In low connectivity species, ensuring upstream and downstream connections is critical.

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Scientific Reports

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Academic Units
Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology
Published Here
September 28, 2016