Open vs. closed marine populations: Synthesis and analysis of the evidence

Principal Investigators:

Robert R. Warner

The major unanswered question in marine ecology is the degree of connectedness between local populations. Put another way, what proportion of young arriving into a local population are products of local production? What is the source of recruits for any local population, and where do the young produced in a local population go? The answers to these questions are unknown for any widespread species with a pelagic dispersal phase. Proper marine management depends on knowledge in this area: the efficacy of any reserve design, for example, is highly... more

The major unanswered question in marine ecology is the degree of connectedness between local populations. Put another way, what proportion of young arriving into a local population are products of local production? What is the source of recruits for any local population, and where do the young produced in a local population go? The answers to these questions are unknown for any widespread species with a pelagic dispersal phase. Proper marine management depends on knowledge in this area: the efficacy of any reserve design, for example, is highly dependent on the degree to which it is dependent on other populations for recruitment, and the degree to which it supplies other areas.

Since most marine animals have a pelagic larval stage, the paradigm thus far has been to assume extensive dispersal and massive export. In contrast, I suggest that evidence is accumulating in a variety of fields (detailed below) that indicates a surprising amount of local retention, even in species with long larval durations. If such retention turns out to be a common feature of local marine population dynamics, this will require major reassessment of marine metapopulation models, fishery management schemes, marine reserve designs, and ideas about the mechanisms of marine speciation. It is time to assess the evidence for open populations (i.e., strongly connected local populations, best approached through metapopulation models) vs. closed populations (i.e., dependent on local production, similar to many terrestrial systems) in the marine environment.

An assessment of the prevalence of open vs. closed populations has been hampered by the diverse nature of the evidence. Many workers have pieces of the puzzle, and we need to gather them together. This proposal has two components:

1. A working group will convene to identify and share the most important areas of evidence, sources of data, and common methods of analysis. This group will consist of workers in the following areas:

¿ life-history characteristics of endemic species

¿ geographic genetic structure of marine populations

¿ patterns of spread of introduced species

¿larval distributions, ecology and behavior

¿ near-shore oceanography

¿ marine paleoecology

¿ empirical studies of recruitment

¿ proximal effects of marine reserves

2. As a Center Fellow, I will coordinate the group and work with NCEAS staff to help the group to gain access to and synthesize the evidence. Many in this group will not have realized the connections between their disciplines until they meet over this common problem, and most will not have analyzed their data from the perspective of open vs. closed populations. One of the most important tasks of this group will be to assess the evidence critically: what is evidence to indicate the degree of retention in a marine population, and what are alternative explanations for the patterns seen?

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Participants and Meetings


Working Group Participants
ActivityDatesFurther Information
Sabbatical Fellow1st September 1999—31st August 2000Participant List  
Working Group24th—28th October 1999Participant List  
Working Group15th—18th March 2000Participant List  
Working Group27th—29th March 2000Participant List  
Working Group10th—12th May 2000Participant List  
Working Group19th—21st June 2000Participant List  
Working Group21st—23rd June 2000Participant List  

Participant Contact Information

Robert R. Warnerwarner@lifesci.ucsb.eduUniversity of California, Santa Barbara
George Boehlertgeorge.boehlert@oregonstate.eduPacific Fisheries Environmental Laboratory
Ronald Burtonrburton@ucsd.eduUniversity of California, San Diego
James T. Carltonjcarlton@williams.eduWilliams College
Robert Cowenrcowen@rsmas.miami.eduUniversity of Miami
Ginny Eckertginny.eckert@uas.alaska.eduUniversity of California, Santa Barbara
Churchill B. Grimeschurchill.grimes@noaa.govCNMFS Tiburon Laboratory
Dennis Hedgecockdehedgecock@ucdavis.eduUniversity of California, Davis
Michael E. Hellbergmhellbe@lsu.eduLouisiana State University
Terence P. Hughesterry.hughes@jcu.edu.auJames Cook University
Jeremy B.C. Jacksonjeremybcjackson@gmail.comUniversity of California, San Diego
Geoffrey P. Jonesgeoffrey.jones@jcu.edu.auJames Cook University
Michael J. Kingsfordmikek@bio.usyd.edu.auUniversity of Sydney
Armand Kuriskuris@lifesci.ucsb.eduUniversity of California, Santa Barbara
Jeffrey M. Leisjeffl@amsg.austmus.oz.auAustralian Museum
Ken Lindemanklindeman@environmentaldefense.orgUniversity of Miami
Steven Morgansgmorgan@ucdavis.eduUniversity of California, Davis
John L. Munroj.munro@cgiar.orgWorldfish/ICLARM
Joseph E. NeigelUniversity of Southwest Louisiana
Stephen R. Palumbispalumbi@stanford.eduHarvard University
John M. Pandolfij.pandolfi@uq.edu.auSmithsonian Institution
Jesus Pinedajpineda@whoi.eduWoods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Callum Robertscr10@york.ac.ukUniversity of York
D. Ross Robertsonross.robertson@stri.orgSmithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Kaustuv Roykroy@ucsd.eduUniversity of California, San Diego
Gregory M. Ruizruizg@si.eduSmithsonian Environmental Research Center
Alan L. Shanksashanks@oimb.uoregon.eduUniversity of Oregon
Jeffrey Shimashima@lifesci.ucsb.eduUniversity of California, Santa Barbara
Su Sponauglessponaugle@rsmas.miami.eduUniversity of Miami
Richard R. Strathmannrrstrath@u.washington.eduFriday Harbor Labs
Stephen E. Swearerswearer@lifesci.ucsb.eduUniversity of California, Santa Barbara
Simon Thorroldsthorrol@odul.eduOld Dominion University
Bella Galilgalil@math.tau.ac.ilIsrael Oceanographic and Limnological Research
Kimberly A. Selkoeselkoe@nceas.ucsb.eduUniversity of California, Santa Barbara

Products: Publications, Reports, Datasets, Presentations, Visualizations

TypeProducts of NCEAS Research
Journal Article Hellberg, Michael E.; Burton, Ronald; Hedgecock, Dennis; Neigel, Joseph E.; Palumbi, Stephen R. 2002. Genetic assessment of connectivity among marine populations. Bulletin of Marine Science. Vol: 70. Pages 273-290.
Journal Article Kingsford, Michael J.; Leis, Jeffrey M.; Shanks, Alan L.; Lindeman, Ken; Morgan, Steven; Pineda, Jesus. 2002. Sensory environments, larval abilities and local self-recruitment. Bulletin of Marine Science. Vol: 70. Pages 309-340.
Journal Article Sponaugle, Su; Cowen, Robert; Shanks, Alan L.; Morgan, Steven; Leis, Jeffrey M.; Pineda, Jesus; Boehlert, George; Kingsford, Michael J.; Lindeman, Ken; Grimes, Churchill B.; Munro, John L. 2002. Predicting self-recruitment in marine populations: Biophysical correlates and mechanisms. Bulletin of Marine Science. Vol: 70. Pages 341-375.
Journal Article Strathmann, Richard R.; Hughes, Terence P.; Kuris, Armand; Lindeman, Ken; Morgan, Steven; Pandolfi, John M.; Warner, Robert R. 2002. Evolution of local recruitment and its consequences for marine populations. Bulletin of Marine Science. Vol: 70. Pages 377-396.
Journal Article Swearer, Stephen E.; Shima, Jeffrey; Hellberg, Michael E.; Thorrold, Simon; Jones, Geoffrey P.; Robertson, D. Ross; Morgan, Steven; Selkoe, Kimberly A.; Ruiz, Gregory M.; Warner, Robert R. 2002. Evidence of self-recruitment in demersal marine populations. Bulletin of Marine Science. Vol: 70. Pages 251-271.
Journal Article Thorrold, Simon; Jones, Geoffrey P.; Hellberg, Michael E.; Burton, Ronald; Swearer, Stephen E.; Neigel, Joseph E.; Morgan, Steven; Warner, Robert R. 2002. Quantifying larval retention and connectivity in marine populations with artificial and natural markers. Bulletin of Marine Science. Vol: 70. Pages 291-308.
Presentations Warner, Robert R. 2000. Open vs. closed marine populations: Synthesis and analysis of the evidence, 30 August 2000. COMPASS.
Presentations Warner, Robert R. 2001. Using past marine reserve performance as a guide for effective design, 17 February 2001. American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Journal Article Warner, Robert R.; Cowen, Robert. 2002. Local retention of production in marine populations: Evidence, mechanisms, and consequences. Bulletin of Marine Science. Vol: 70. Pages 245-249.
"Open vs. closed marine populations: Synthesis and analysis of the evidence" is project ID: 2283