Estimating connectivity of hard clam (Mercenaria mercenaria) and eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) larvae in Barnegat Bay

Estuaries and Coasts
By: , and 



Many marine organisms have a well-known adult sessile stage. Unfortunately, our lack of knowledge regarding their larval transient stage hinders our understanding of their basic ecology and connectivity. Larvae can have swimming behavior that influences their transport within the marine environment. Understanding the larval stage provides insight into population connectivity that can help strategically identify areas for restoration. Current techniques for understanding the larval stage include modeling that combines particle attributes (e.g., larval behavior) with physical processes of water movement to contribute to our understanding of connectivity trends. This study builds on those methods by using a previously developed retention clock matrix (RCM) to illustrate time dependent connectivity of two species of shellfish between areas and over a range of larval durations. The RCM was previously used on physical parameters but we expand the concept by applying it to biology. A new metric, difference RCM (DRCM), is introduced to quantify changes in connectivity under different scenarios. Broad spatial trends were similar for all behavior types with a general south to north progression of particles. The DRCMs illustrate differences between neutral particles and those with behavior in northern regions where stratification was higher, indicating that larval behavior influenced transport. Based on these findings, particle behavior led to small differences (north to south movement) in transport patterns in areas with higher salinity gradients (the northern part of the system) compared to neutral particles. Overall, the dominant direction for particle movement was from south to north, which at times was enhanced by winds from the south. Clam and oyster restoration in the southern portion of Barnegat Bay could serve as a larval supply for populations in the north. These model results show that coupled hydrodynamic and particle tracking models have implications for fisheries management and restoration activities.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Estimating connectivity of hard clam (Mercenaria mercenaria) and eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) larvae in Barnegat Bay
Series title Estuaries and Coasts
DOI 10.3390/jmse7060167
Volume 7
Issue 6
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher MDPI
Contributing office(s) Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 167, 17 p.
Country United States
State New Jersey
Other Geospatial Barnegat Bay, Little Egg Harbor
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