Abstract: The need to consider connectivity in the design of marine reserve networks has long been recognised. Connectivity processes, with larval dispersal key amongst these, are critical to whether species persist in a region, how they respond to natural and anthropogenic disturbances, and how they should be managed. However, in the context of conservation planning, connectivity has been poorly defined, objectives fail to address the ultimate reasons for focusing on connectivity, and guidelines have provided broad “rules of thumb” rather than specific, quantitative recommendations. During the past decade or so, empirical and modelling advances have greatly improved our understanding of larval dispersal processes, and a lack of data can no longer be considered an impediment to incorporating connectivity into conservation planning. Nevertheless, conceptual and practical challenges remain in translating spatial depictions of connectivity into potential locations for conservation areas. I will discuss these, and new ideas on how to overcome them developed through collaboration between conservation planners, larval ecologists and modellers.
Biography: Rebecca is a research fellow with the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. Her research interests broadly focus on resolving challenges related to conservation planning for marine and coastal ecosystems in the Coral Triangle and Pacific Islands. Prior to her current appointment, Rebecca was a postdoctoral fellow with the Wildlife Conservation Society in Fiji, where she worked with communities to improve the spatial extent and ecological effectiveness of their network of marine protected areas, and drank copious amounts of kava. Her PhD, awarded in 2011 from James Cook University, investigated approaches to scale-up locally managed marine protected areas in the Philippines.