Connectivity is an important component of coral reef studies for its role in the enhancement of ecosystem resilience. Previous genetic structure and physical circulation studies in the Red Sea reveal a homogeneity within the coral reef complexes in the central and northern parts of the basin. Yet, genetic isolation and relatively low connectivity has been observed in the southern Red Sea. Raitsos et al. (2017) recently hypothesized that coral reefs in the southern Red Sea are more connected with regions outside the basin, rather than with the central and northern Red Sea. Using a physical circulation approach based on a 3-D backward particle tracking simulation, we further investigate this hypothesis. A long-term (> 10 years), very high resolution (1km) MITgcm simulation is used to provide detailed information on velocity in the complex coastal regions of the Red Sea and the adjacent narrow Bab-El-Mandeb Strait.
The particle tracking simulation results support the initial hypothesis that the coastal regions in the southern Red Sea exhibit a consistently higher connectivity with the regions outside the Bab-El-Mandeb Strait, than with the central and northern Red Sea. Substantially high levels of connectivity, facilitated by the circulation and eddies, is observed with the coastal regions in the Gulf of Aden. A strong seasonality in connectivity, related to the monsoon-driven circulation, is also evident with the regions outside of the Red Sea. The winter surface intrusion plays a leading role in transporting the particles from the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean into the Red Sea, while the summer subsurface intrusion also supports the transport of particles into the Red Sea in the intermediate layer. In addition, the connectivity with the central and northern Red Sea is more affected by the intensity of the eddies. Evidence also suggests that potential connectivity exists between the coastal southern Red Sea and the coasts of Oman, Socotra, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and the north coast of the Madagascar.