Strengthened currents override the effect of warming on lobster larval dispersal and survival

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Human-induced climate change is projected to increase ocean temperature and modify circulation patterns, with potential widespread implications for the transport and survival of planktonic larvae of marine organisms. Circulation affects the dispersal of larvae, whereas temperature impacts larval development and survival. However, the combined effect of changes in circulation and temperature on larval dispersal and survival has rarely been studied in a future climate scenario. Such understanding is crucial to predict future species distributions, anticipate ecosystem shifts and design effective management strategies. We simulate contemporary (1990s) and future (2060s) dispersal of lobster larvae using an eddy-resolving ocean model in south-eastern Australia, a region of rapid ocean warming. Here we show that the effects of changes in circulation and temperature can counter each other: ocean warming favours the survival of lobster larvae, whereas a strengthened western boundary current diminishes the supply of larvae to the coast by restricting cross-current larval dispersal. Furthermore, we find that changes in circulation have a stronger effect on connectivity patterns of lobster larvae along south-eastern Australia than ocean warming in the future climate so that the supply of larvae to the coast reduces by ˜4% and the settlement peak shifts poleward by ˜270 km in the model simulation. Thus, ocean circulation may be one of the dominant factors contributing to climate-induced changes of species ranges.

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