Despite substantial progress, understanding how marine populations with dispersive larval stages persist remains a central challenge in biological oceanography. It had been widely assumed that new recruits in marine species are drawn from a “pool” of potentially competent recruits and that ocean conditions determine the pattern of recruitment. However, research has indicated that these processes are not random. The pattern of ocean flows means that the location at which dispersive larvae are released influences the likelihood of them reaching potential nursery or settlement areas.
Our NSF-funded project examines patterns of variability in transport of Atlantic menhaden that are spawned in the Mid-Atlantic Bight to estuarine nursery areas along the Atlantic seaboard. We address this question by combining an operational ROMS model of the coastal ocean from Cape Cod, MA to Cape Hatteras, NC (Espresso) and an existing larval tracking model (LTRANS ) to address hypotheses about the importance of different spawning and nursery areas. Our approach has been to track the contribution of offspring spawned at 7 potential nursery areas to 7 potential estuarine habitats