Open and closed seascapes: Where does habitat patchiness create populations with high fractions of self-recruitment?

Malin L. Pinsky, Stephen R. Palumbi, Serge Andréfouët, Sam J. Purkis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Which populations are replenished primarily by immigrants (open) and which by local production (closed) remains an important question for management with implications for response to exploitation, protection, and disturbance. However, we lack methods for predicting population openness. Here, we develop a model for openness and show that considering habitat isolation explains the existence of surprisingly closed populations in highdispersal species, including many marine organisms. Relatively closed populations are expected when patch spacing is more than twice the standard deviation of a species' dispersal kernel. In addition, natural scales of habitat patchiness on coral reefs are sufficient to create both largely open and largely closed populations. Contrary to some previous interpretations, largely closed marine populations do not require mean dispersal distances that are unusually short, even for species with relatively long pelagic larval durations. We predict that habitat patchiness has strong control over population openness for many marine and terrestrial species with a highly dispersive life stage and relatively sedentary adults. This information can be used to make initial predictions about where populations will be more or less resilient to local exploitation and disturbance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1257-1267
Number of pages11
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Connectivity
  • Coral reef seascapes
  • Dispersal
  • Landscape ecology
  • Marine protected areas
  • Metapopulation
  • Population openness
  • Reef fishes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Open and closed seascapes: Where does habitat patchiness create populations with high fractions of self-recruitment?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this