Marine reserves, areas closed to all forms of fishing, continue to be advocated and implemented to supplement fisheries and conserve populations [1-4]. However, although the reproductive potential of important fishery species can dramatically increase inside reserves [5-8], the extent to which larval offspring are exported and the relative contribution of reserves to recruitment in fished and protected populations are unknown [4, 9-11]. Using genetic parentage analyses, we resolve patterns of larval dispersal for two species of exploited coral reef fish within a network of marine reserves on the Great Barrier Reef. In a 1,000 km 2 study area, populations resident in three reserves exported 83% (coral trout, Plectropomus maculatus) and 55% (stripey snapper, Lutjanus carponotatus) of assigned offspring to fished reefs, with the remainder having recruited to natal reserves or other reserves in the region. We estimate that reserves, which account for just 28% of the local reef area, produced approximately half of all juvenile recruitment to both reserve and fished reefs within 30 km. Our results provide compelling evidence that adequately protected reserve networks can make a significant contribution to the replenishment of populations on both reserve and fished reefs at a scale that benefits local stakeholders. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
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