Impact of sea level rise on marine larval connectivity and implications for optimal design of marine protected area networks
Start date: 23 August 2010
Connectivity can be defined as the potential for exchange of propagules amongst populations and is an essential requirement to ensure resilience of marine populations. Therefore, connectivity is a key consideration in the design of ecologically coherent marine protected area (MPA) networks. However, forecasted sea level rise has the potential to alter connectivity and thus impact resilience. A guiding principle of MPA network designation is connectivity and if sea level rise alters this over time, the designation may no longer be justified and the successful achievement of resilience may become compromised. In contrast, in the event that sea level rise will not have a strong effect on connectivity of marine populations, resources for MPA network design can be redirected to a more demanding issue. To our knowledge the impact of sea level on connectivity has as yet received no research attention.
On the south coast of England sea level rise is exacerbated. This is because vertical land movements are causing the land to sink into the sea as it subsides from the impact of the northern ice sheet from the last glacial period. Therefore, the region can provide a predictive scenario for application to other coastal areas. We determined whether forecasted sea level rise could significantly alter connectivity with the hypothesis that transition probability matrices vary significantly from low to high UKCP09 scenarios for 2050 sea level rise. We used network analysis to quantify differences in connectivity and applied this to MPA network design.