Pathways of larval dispersal: the roles of alongshore and cross shore transport

Principal Investigator: Francesca Porri

Project Abstract:
Many coastal populations are maintained by either self-recruitment or extensively connected. The degree of connectivity among populations is therefore fundimental to determine the dynamics and structure of the populations themselves. Given the dynamic nature of the physical environment in which larval transport occurs, however it comes as no supprise that our understanding of larval connectivity is still considered incomplete. Since the majority of benthic organisms have a pelagic larval stage, there is an inevitable strong interaction between physical oceanography and life history traits, which in turn most likely influences the spatial structure of adult populations. Settlement and post-settlement processes can further shape the final configurations of larval connectivity, so as to account for the effects of the offshore bio-physical as well as onshore settlement processes on the dynamics and structure of benthic populations. A strong tri-disciplinary approach (ecological, oceanographic and molecular) is a key strength of this project, as it has great potential to resolve the mechanisms that determine pathways of benthic larvae in an area that is undoubtedly the most suitable for studying planktonic dispersal in Africa, the SAEON Algoa Bay Sentinal Site.