This study compiled available information on the dispersal distance of the propagules of benthic marine organisms and used this information in the development of criteria for the design of marine reserves. Many benthic marine organisms release propagules that spend time in the water column before settlement. During this period, ocean currents transport or disperse the propagules. When considering the size of a marine reserve and the spacing between reserves, one must consider the distance which propagules disperse. We could find estimates of dispersal distance for 32 taxa; for 25 of these, we were also able to find data on the time the propagules spent dispersing. Dispersal distance ranged from meters to thousands of kilometers, and time in the plankton ranged from minutes to months. A significant positive correlation was found between the log-transformed duration in the plankton and the log-transformed dispersal distance ( r == 0.7776, r 2 == 0.60, df == 1, 25, P == 0.000); the more time propagules spend in the water column the further they tend to be dispersed. The frequency distribution of the log-transformed dispersal distance is bimodal (kurtosis == −−1.29, t == −−4.062, P < 0.001) with a gap between 1 and 20 km. Propagules that dispersed <1 km spent less time in the plankton (<100 h), or if they remained in the plankton for a longer period, they tended to remain in the waters near the bottom. Propagules that dispersed >20 km spent more than 300 h in the plankton. The bimodal nature of the distribution suggests that evolutionary constraints may reduce the likelihood of evolving mid-range dispersal strategies (i.e., dispersal between 1 and 20 km) resulting in two evolutionarily stable dispersal strategies: dispersal <1 km or >∼∼20 km. We suggest that reserves be designed large enough to contain the short-distance dispersing propagules and be spaced far enough apart that long-distance dispersing propagules released from one reserve can settle in adjacent reserves. A reserve 4––6 km in diameter should be large enough to contain the larvae of short-distance dispersers, and reserves spaced 10––20 km apart should be close enough to capture propagules released from adjacent reserves.
Ecological Applications – Ecological Society of America
Published: Feb 1, 2003
Keywords: dispersal ; introduced species ; larvae ; marine protected area ; marine reserve ; plankton ; propagules ; recruitment
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