Modelling survival and connectivity of Mnemiopsis leidyi in the south-western North Sea and Scheldt estuaries
Abstract. Three different models were applied to study the reproduction, survival and dispersal of Mnemiopsis leidyi in the Scheldt estuaries and the southern North Sea: a high-resolution particle tracking model with passive particles, a low-resolution particle tracking model with a reproduction model coupled to a biogeochemical model, and a dynamic energy budget (DEB) model. The results of the models, each with its strengths and weaknesses, suggest the following conceptual situation: (i) the estuaries possess enough retention capability to keep an overwintering population, and enough exchange with coastal waters of the North Sea to seed offshore populations; (ii) M. leidyi can survive in the North Sea, and be transported over considerable distances, thus facilitating connectivity between coastal embayments; (iii) under current climatic conditions, M. leidyi may not be able to reproduce in large numbers in coastal and offshore waters of the North Sea, but this may change with global warming; however, this result is subject to substantial uncertainty. Further quantitative observational work is needed on the effects of temperature, salinity and food availability on reproduction and on mortality at different life stages to improve models such as used here.