Hydrodynamic provinces and oceanic connectivity from a transport network help designing marine reserves
Oceanic dispersal and connectivity have been identified as crucial factors for structuring marine populations and designing marine protected areas (MPAs). Focusing on larval dispersal by ocean currents, we propose an approach coupling Lagrangian transport and new tools from Network Theory to characterize marine connectivity in the Mediterranean basin. Larvae of different pelagic durations and seasons are modeled as passive tracers advected in a simulated oceanic surface flow from which a network of connected areas is constructed. Hydrodynamical provinces extracted from this network are delimited by frontiers which match multiscale oceanographic features. By examining the repeated occurrence of such boundaries, we identify the spatial scales and geographic structures that would control larval dispersal across the entire seascape. Based on these hydrodynamical units, we study novel connectivity metrics for existing reserves. Our results are discussed in the context of ocean biogeography and MPAs design, having ecological and managerial implications.