A model-based assessment of reef larvae dispersal in the Western Indian Ocean reveals regional connectivity patterns — Potential implications for conservation policies

Abstract : Marine resources are under increasing pressure from a wide variety of threats such as overfishing, offshore energy development, and climate change. As marine ecosystems degrade, so do the well-being and livelihoods of humans that depend directly on the ecosystem goods and services they provide. Marine protected areas have been proposed to protect biodiversity, restore damaged ecosystems, sustain fisheries, and rebuild overexploited stocks. The effectiveness of marine protected areas depends in part on their effectiveness as connected networks, linked over large areas by ecological processes such as larval dispersal. Here, we applied a biophysical model driven by ocean currents derived from satellite altimetry to evaluate connectivity between Western Indian Ocean reefs. We applied graph-theoretic analysis, including clustering and a betweenness centrality metric. Our results show high interconnectivity within several regions (Mozambique Channel, Mascarene archipelago) and lower connectivity across the WIO region. We compared the results with the current MPA network, and proposed sites/reefs that should be considered priority sites for MPA implementation: Pebane, Cosmoledo, Majunga, Masoarivo, Platte Island, Farquhar, Agalega and Geyser bank. Our results are timely, considering the oil and gas exploration that is ongoing in the region. We discuss implications for transboundary marine policies and regional cooperation in the Western Indian Ocean, and advocate the creation of a regional-scale organization to structure interactions among the different actors.
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Estelle Crochelet, Jason Roberts, Erwann Lagabrielle, David Obura, Michel Petit, et al.. A model-based assessment of reef larvae dispersal in the Western Indian Ocean reveals regional connectivity patterns — Potential implications for conservation policies. Regional Studies in Marine Science, Elsevier, 2016, 7, pp.159-167. ⟨http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352485516301050⟩. ⟨10.1016/j.rsma.2016.06.007⟩. ⟨hal-01368392⟩

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