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Home » Impact Of Larval Behaviors On Dispersal And Connectivity Of Sea Scallop Larvae Over The Northeast U.S. Shelf

Impact Of Larval Behaviors On Dispersal And Connectivity Of Sea Scallop Larvae Over The Northeast U.S. Shelf

Sea scallops (Placopecten magellanicus) are a highly fecund species that supports one of the most commercially valuable fisheries in the northeast U.S. continental shelf region. Scallop landings exhibit significant interannual variability, with abundances widely varied due to a combination of anthropogenic and natural factors. By coupling a pelagic-stage Individual-Based scallop population dynamics Model (hereafter referred to as Scallop-IBM) with the Northeast Coastal Ocean Forecast System (NECOFS) and considering the persistent aggregations over Georges Bank (GB)/Great South Channel (GSC) as source beds, we have examined the dispersion and settlement of scallop larvae over 1978–2016. The results demonstrated that the significant interannual variability of larval dispersal was driven by biophysical interactions associated with scallop larval swimming behaviors in their early stages. The duration, frequency, and stimulus of larval vertical migration in the ocean mixed layer (OML) affected the residence time of larvae in the water column over GB. It thus sustained the persistent aggregations of scallops in the GB/GSC and Southern New England region. In addition to larval behavior in the OML, the larval transport to the Middle Atlantic Bight (MAB) was also closely related to the intensity and duration of northeasterly wind in autumn. There was no conspicuous connectivity of scallop larvae between GB/GSC and MAB in the past 39 years except in the autumn of 2009. In 2009, the significant larval transport to the MAB was produced by unusually strong northeasterly winds. Ignoring larval behavior in the OML could overestimate the scallop population’s connectivity between GB and the MAB and thus provide an unrealistic prediction of scallop larval recruitment in the region. Both satellite-derived SST and NECOFS show that the northeast U.S. shelf experienced climate change-induced warming. The extreme warming at the shelfbreak off GB tends to intensify the cross-isobath water temperature gradient and enhance the clockwise subtidal gyre over GB. This change can increase the larval retention rate over GB/GSC, facilitating enhanced productivity on GB.

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