Ocean currents predict fine-scale genetic structure and source-sink dynamics in a marine invertebrate coastal fishery
Estimates of connectivity are vital for understanding population dynamics and for the design of spatial management areas. However, this is still a major challenge in the marine environment because the relative contributions of factors influencing connectivity amongst subpopulations are difficult to assess. This study combined population genetics with hydrodynamic modelling (Regional Ocean Modeling System, ROMS) to assess spatial and temporal exchange of individuals among subpopulations of the New Zealand scallop, Pecten novaezelandiae, within the Coromandel fishery area open to commercial fishing. Significant genetic differentiation was revealed among subpopulations with variable levels of recruitment. Connectivity, as assessed by ROMS, was a significant explanatory variable of genetic differentiation when accounting for the spatial dependency between locations. Although additional research is needed before source-sink population dynamics can be confidently used in management, these results imply that higher yields could be available from this fishery at lower risk of over-exploitation if the fishing of each subpopulation could be tailored to its contribution to recruitment, perhaps using subpopulation catch limits. This study highlights inter-annual patterns of connectivity, the importance of combining different methods for a better prediction of population dynamics, and how such an approach may contribute to management of living marine resources.