Suspended sediment impairs habitat choice and chemosensory discrimination in two coral reef fishes

Wenger, Amelia S., Johansen, J.L., and Jones, G.P. (2011) Suspended sediment impairs habitat choice and chemosensory discrimination in two coral reef fishes. Coral Reefs, 30 (4). pp. 879-887.

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Increasing sediment onto coral reefs has been identified as a major source of habitat degradation, and yet little is known about how it affects reef fishes. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that sediment-enriched water impairs the ability of larval damselfish to find suitable settlement sites. At three different experimental concentrations of suspended sediment (45, 90, and 180 mg l−1), pre-settlement individuals of two species (Pomacentrus amboinensis and P. moluccensis) were not able to select their preferred habitat. In a clear water environment (no suspended sediment), both species exhibit a strong preference for live coral over partially dead and dead coral, choosing live coral 70 and 80% of the time, respectively. However, when exposed to suspended sediment, no habitat choice was observed, with individuals of both species settling on live coral, partially dead, and dead coral, at the same frequency. To determine a potential mechanism underlying these results, we tested chemosensory discrimination in sediment-enriched water. We demonstrated that sediment disrupts the ability of this species to respond to chemical cues from different substrata. That is, individuals of P. moluccensis prefer live coral to dead coral in clear water, but in sediment-enriched water, chemical cues from live and dead coral were not distinguished. These results suggest that increasing suspended sediment in coral reef environments may reduce settlement success or survival of coral reef fishes. A sediment-induced disruption of habitat choice may compound the effects of habitat loss on coral reefs.

Item ID: 18592
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Keywords: habitat degradation, river runoff, settlement, chemoreception, turbidity
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2011 06:58
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 70%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050102 Ecosystem Function @ 30%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences @ 100%
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