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Biophysical model of coral population connectivity in the Arabian/Persian Gulf

Cavalcante, Geórgenes H.
Vieira, Filipe
Mortensen, Jonas
Ben-Hamadou, Radhouane
Range, Pedro
Goergen, Elizabeth
Campos, Edmo
Riegl, Bernhard
This is a summary of the book chapter.
The coral reef ecosystems of the Arabian/Persian Gulf (the Gulf ) are facing profound pressure from climate change (extreme temperatures) and anthropogenic (land-use and population-related) stressors. Increasing degradation at local and regional scales has already resulted in widespread coral cover reduction. Connectivity, the transport and exchange of larvae among geographically separated populations, plays an essential role in recovery and maintenance of biodiversity and resilience of coral reef populations. Here, an oceanographic model in 3-D high-resolution was used to simulate particle dispersion of “virtual larvae.” We investigated the potential physical connectivity of coral reefs among different regions in the Gulf. Simulations reveal that basin-scale circulation is responsible for broader spatial dispersion of the larvae in the central region of the Gulf, and tidally-driven currents characterized the more localized connectivity pattern in regions along the shores in the Gulf’s southern part. Results suggest predominant self-recruitment of reefs with highest source and sink ratios along the Bahrain and western Qatar coasts, followed by the south eastern Qatar and continental Abu Dhabi coast. The central sector of the Gulf is suggested as recruitment source in a stepping-stone dynamics. Recruitment intensity declined moving away from the Straits of Hormuz. Connectivity varied in models assuming passive versus active mode of larvae movement. This suggests that larval behaviour needs to be taken into consideration when establishing dispersion models, and establishing conservation strategies for these vulnerable ecosystems.