Matthew Hare, Ph.D. (Cornell University) and John Scarpa, Ph.D. (HBOI-FAU)
- Martha O. Burford, Ph.D. (Cornell)
- Haibin Zhang, Ph.D. (Cornell)
- Benjamin Cook, Field Asst. (Cornell)
- Laura Eierman, Doctoral Student (Cornell)
- Kelly Chang, Field Asst. (HBOI-FAU)
- Federico Prahl, Hatchery Asst. (HBOI-FAU)
Every species is adapted to particular habitats distributed in patches. Dispersal entails the movement of offspring from their parents, often among habitat patches of different quality. Accordingly, a fundamental question at both ecological and evolutionary time scales is the relative importance of dispersal and selection determining the abundance and distribution of populations.
In this study, we focus on the zoogeographic province boundary between warm-temperate and sub-tropical marine fauna in eastern Florida and use a high-dispersal estuarine species, the American oyster Crassostrea virginica, to study contemporary mechanisms promoting population structure. Eastern Florida has one of the sharpest latitudinal temperature gradients in the western North Atlantic. Estuarine habitat transitions from salt marshes to mangroves along this temperature gradient, with concomitant changes in estuarine communities. The semi-continuous lagoon system along Atlantic Florida, connected to oceanic waters by relatively few inlets, also places physical constraints on population connectivity. The project will:
- map the pattern of oyster dispersal along eastern Florida,
- test for differential fertilization efficiency and larval viability between northeastern and southeastern Florida, and
- test for local adaptation and post-settlement selection by reciprocally transplanting experimental parental and hybrid populations across the ecotone.
The setting for this study is important because biogeographic transition zones are rich in biodiversity and their climatological ‘edge’ quality may make them especially vulnerable to climate change, depending on the mechanisms structuring populations. Also, the eastern Florida lagoons provide important habitat including the oldest U.S. marine protected area and a National Estuarine Research Reserve. Thus, the knowledge gained about oyster dispersal and habitat quality will have direct implications for restoration and management in this important coastal region.