Distribution and microhabitat associations of the juveniles of a high-value sea cucumber, Stichopus cf. horrens, in northern Philippines

Palomar-Abesamis, N., Abesamis, R.A., and Juinio-Meez, M.A. (2017) Distribution and microhabitat associations of the juveniles of a high-value sea cucumber, Stichopus cf. horrens, in northern Philippines. Aquatic Ecology, 51 (1). pp. 17-31.

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There is considerable global interest in rebuilding depleted populations of sea cucumbers (Echinodermata, Holothuroidea) to address conservation and economic goals. For the vast majority of holothurian species, the habitat and food requirements of the juvenile stage are poorly understood. We investigated the distribution and microhabitat associations of juveniles of a commercially important sea cucumber, Stichopus cf. horrens, in the shallow, shoreward side of a coral reef (or backreef) in northern Philippines (16A degrees 21'38.7aEuro(3)N, 119A degrees 59'47.9aEuro(3)E). Relationships between juvenile density and the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of their habitat were examined. Potential food sources of the juveniles were also investigated using elemental and stable isotope analysis. Results showed that juveniles are more abundant in seagrass areas and the transition zone between seagrass and the rubble-dominated reef flat. A non-metric multidimensional scaling (MDS) plot indicated that juvenile density was most positively associated with coarser sand and rubble (> 0.5 mm) and seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii) abundance (2D stress = 0.11). Juvenile density was also positively associated with sediment organic matter from plant detritus to a lesser extent. Elemental and isotope analysis of one site indicated that epiphytes were the primary food source of juveniles, while sediment detritus from microalgae and seagrass was a secondary food source. This study corroborates anecdotal evidence regarding the importance of seagrass to S. cf. horrens as potential refugia and source of high-quality food for its juveniles. These findings underscore the need to protect the nursery habitats of wild juveniles and provide critical information for the selection of suitable natural habitats for releasing cultured juveniles of this important species.

Item ID: 50308
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1573-5125
Keywords: Holothurian, seagrass, nursery, epiphyte, detritus, stable isotope
Funders: Philippine Department of Science and Technology (PDST), University of the Philippines
Projects and Grants: PDST Accelerated Science and Technology Human Resource Development Program
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2017 07:50
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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