Context is more important than habitat type in determining use by juvenile fish

Bradley, Michael, Baker, Ronald, Nagelkerken, Ivan, and Sheaves, Marcus (2019) Context is more important than habitat type in determining use by juvenile fish. Landscape Ecology, 34. pp. 427-442.

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Abstract

Context: Habitat characteristics are often equated with habitat function for animals. However, in heterogeneous landscapes, similar habitat types occur in different environmental contexts. In the marine realm, landscape studies have been confined to particular environments, rather than encompassing entire seascapes, due to incompatible sampling methods required in different situations.

Objectives: We examined the interactive structuring effects of local habitat characteristics and environmental context on assemblage composition.

Methods: We used a single technique—remote underwater video census—to explore the importance of habitat type (biotic structural components, substrate, and depth) and environmental context (marine vs estuarine) in structuring juvenile fish assemblages throughout an entire coastal region. In this model system, a range of structural habitat types were present in both estuarine and marine contexts.

Results: The 1315 video surveys collected show a clear hierarchy in the organisation of juvenile fish communities, with assemblages first distinguished by environmental context, then by habitat type. Marine and estuarine mangroves contained entirely different assemblages, and likewise for rocky reefs and submerged aquatic vegetation. Our results suggest that two functionally different 'seascape nursery' types exist at local scales within a single region, defined by their context.

Conclusions: The context of a location can be of greater significance in determining potential habitat function than what habitat-forming biota and substrates are present, and apparently similar habitat types in different contexts may be functionally distinct. These findings have important implications for local-scale management and conservation of juvenile fish habitats, particularly in regard to offsetting and restoration.

Item ID: 62444
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1572-9761
Keywords: Habitat, Function, Nursery role, Ecological context, Environmental setting, Coastal ecosystem, Juvenile fish, Underwater video
Copyright Information: (C) Springer Nature B.V. 2019
Funders: Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), Wet Tropics Management Authority
Projects and Grants: FRDC Project No. 2013-046
Research Data: https://doi.org/10.25903/5c3d33ace91f3
Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2020 00:10
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 50%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0704 Fisheries Sciences > 070402 Aquatic Ecosystem Studies and Stock Assessment @ 50%
SEO Codes: 83 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8302 Fisheries - Wild Caught > 830204 Wild Caught Fin Fish (excl. Tuna) @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960503 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 50%
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