Offshore oil production platforms as potential sources of larvae to coastal shelf regions off southern California
A diverse assemblage of adult reef fishes and invertebrates occurs at offshore oil production platforms in the Southern California Bight (SCB). Coincident with the initiation of the decommissioning of six platforms in the SCB, the goal of this study was to examine how a platform's geographical location plays a role in its potential contribution of larval recruits to natural areas. Using a three-dimensional biophysical model, we quantified the potential connectivity of larvae, particularly relevant to reef fishes, from three offshore platforms to four coastal shelf regions where the majority of rocky settlement habitat occurs in the SCB. The regions cover the shelves of the mainland coast and islands and offshore banks in the southern SCB. The main findings indicate that (1) the potential for larval subsidies from platforms in the southern SCB to populations in the northern SCB are greater than the potential for larval subsidies from platforms in the northern SCB to the southern SCB; (2) there is greater seasonal variability of potential connectivity from platforms to the mainland shelf region of the northern SCB than to the mainland shelf region of the southern SCB or shelves around islands and banks; and (3) there is consistency across years in the relative magnitude of potential connectivity from the platforms to the four shelf regions. We conclude that a platform's function as a larval source should be considered an ecological criterion when evaluating whether a platform is to be converted to an artificial reef and implementing marine spatial planning.