Journal article Open Access
Novel 3-D passive particle tracking experiments were performed in the northwest Atlantic to elucidate connectivity among areas closed to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems. We examined (1) the degree of vertical movement of particles released at different depths and locations; (2) the location of potential source populations for the deep-sea taxa protected by the closures; and (3) the degree of functional connectivity. A long-term oceanographic dataset (EN4) was queried to characterize the temperature and salinity regimes in each of the closed areas as a basis for interpreting recently published climate change projections. Using the Parcels Lagrangian particle tracking framework and the BNAM hydrodynamic model, we found enhanced connectivity over previously developed 2-D models and unexpected, current-driven, strong (to a maximum of about 1340 m) downward displacement at depth (450, 1000 and 2250 m), with weaker upward displacement except for the release depth of 2250 m which showed upward movement of 955 m with a drift duration of 3 months. The current velocities create down-stream interdependence among closed areas and allow redundancy to develop in some of the areas of the network, with some of the larger areas also showing retention. Source populations for sponges in the upstream closure are likely in adjacent waters of the Canadian continental shelf. Collectively this information can be used to inform management decisions related to the size and placement of these closed areas, and vertical velocity surfaces have potential for use in species distribution modeling of benthic species and habitats.