TitleEcological processes can synchronize marine population dynamics over continental scales
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsGouhier, TC, Guichard, F, Menge, B
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Type of ArticleJournal Article

Determining the relative importance of local and regional processes for the distribution of population abundance is a fundamental but contentious issue in ecology. In marine systems, classical theory holds that the influence of demographic processes and dispersal is confined to local populations whereas the environment controls regional patterns of abundance. Here, we use spatial synchrony to compare the distribution of population abundance of the dominant mussel Mytilus californianus observed along the West Coast of the United States to that predicted by dynamical models undergoing different dispersal and environmental treatments to infer the relative influence of local and regional processes. We reveal synchronized fluctuations in the abundance of mussel populations across a whole continent despite limited larval dispersal and strong environmental forcing. We show that dispersal among neighboring populations interacts with local demographic processes to generate characteristic patterns of spatial synchrony that can govern the dynamic distribution of mussel abundance over 1,800 km of coastline. Our study emphasizes the importance of dispersal and local dynamics for the distribution of abundance at the continental scale. It further highlights potential limits to the use of "climate envelope" models for predicting the response of large-scale ecosystems to global climate change.

URL<Go to ISI>://WOS:000277310400044