Currents Connecting Communities: Nearshore Community Similarity and Ocean Circulation

Ecology, In press

James Watson, Cynthia Hays, Peter Raimondi, Satoshi Mitarai, Changming Dong, James McWilliams, Carol Blanchette, Jennifer Caselle, and David Siegel

“Understanding the mechanisms that create spatial heterogeneity in species distributions is fundamental to ecology. For nearshore marine systems, most species have a pelagic larval stage where dispersal is strongly influenced by patterns of ocean circulation. Concomitantly, nearshore habitats and the local environment are also influenced by ocean circulation. Because of the shared dependence on the seascape, distinguishing the relative importance of the local environment from regional patterns of dispersal for community structure remains a challenge. Here, we quantify the oceanographic ‘distance’ and ‘asymmetry’ between nearshore sites using ocean circulation modeling results. These novel metrics quantify spatial separation based on realistic patterns of ocean circulation and we explore their explanatory power for intertidal and subtidal community similarity in the Southern California Bight. We find that these metrics show significant correspondence with patterns of community similarity and that their combined explanatory power exceeds that of the thermal structure of the domain. Our approach identifies the unique influence of ocean circulation on community structure and provides evidence for oceanographically mediated dispersal limitation in nearshore marine communities.”