Ecology and hydrodynamics of a self-recruiting tropical population


Jesús Pineda and Victoria Starczak, Biology Department, WHOI
Brian White, Department of Physical Oceanography, WHOI

Over the last two decades, researchers have addressed the openness of benthic and demersal marine populations (i.e. the degree of exchange of propagules among spatially structured subpopulations), and the relevant dispersal processes. Although marine ecologists now recognize that self-recruitment is more pervasive than originally thought, field studies linking self-recruitment with dispersal and hydrodynamics are missing. Strong indirect evidence indicates that a barnacle population living on a mangrove system is self-recruiting. The population is small, its potential dispersal dominion is restricted, and the timing of the critical dispersal and recruitment events appears to be constrained to the dry season. We propose to study the ecology and hydrodynamics of a self-recruiting tropical barnacle population in Bahía Honda, Pacific coast of Panama. We will test self-recruitment with measurements of flushing and dispersion of dye and larvae, larval duration, and timing of larval release. Furthermore, this research will shed light on the problem of lateral exchange in mangrove channels which affects fluxes of larvae as well as nutrients and sediments.

This research builds on our recent results in Panamanian mangroves, and is tied into our long-term goal of examining the dynamics of populations linked though dispersal and to Pineda’s OLI fellowship on Regional Ecology. Finally, this proposal helps towards developing a research program in the tropics that would be competitive for external funds.