Larval fish dispersal in a coral-reef seascape. Academic Article uri icon


  • Larval dispersal is a critical yet enigmatic process in the persistence and productivity of marine metapopulations. Empirical data on larval dispersal remain scarce, hindering the use of spatial management tools in efforts to sustain ocean biodiversity and fisheries. Here we document dispersal among subpopulations of clownfish (Amphiprion percula) and butterflyfish (Chaetodon vagabundus) from eight sites across a large seascape (10,000 km2) in Papua New Guinea across 2?years. Dispersal of clownfish was consistent between years, with mean observed dispersal distances of 15?km and 10?km in 2009 and 2011, respectively. A Laplacian statistical distribution (the dispersal kernel) predicted a mean dispersal distance of 13-19?km, with 90% of settlement occurring within 31-43?km. Mean dispersal distances were considerably greater (43-64?km) for butterflyfish, with kernels declining only gradually from spawning locations. We demonstrate that dispersal can be measured on spatial scales sufficient to inform the design of and test the performance of marine reserve networks.

publication date

  • May 8, 2017