Non-reef habitats in a tropical seascape affect density and biomass of fishes on coral reefs

Sievers, Katie T., McClure, Eva, Abesamis, Rene A., and Russ, Garry R. (2020) Non-reef habitats in a tropical seascape affect density and biomass of fishes on coral reefs. Ecology and Evolution, 10 (24). pp. 13673-13686.

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Nonreef habitats such as mangroves, seagrass, and macroalgal beds are important for foraging, spawning, and as nursery habitat for some coral reef fishes. The spatial configuration of nonreef habitats adjacent to coral reefs can therefore have a substantial influence on the distribution and composition of reef fish. We investigate how different habitats in a tropical seascape in the Philippines influence the presence, density, and biomass of coral reef fishes to understand the relative importance of different habitats across various spatial scales. A detailed seascape map generated from satellite imagery was combined with field surveys of fish and benthic habitat on coral reefs. We then compared the relative importance of local reef (within coral reef) and adjacent habitat (habitats in the surrounding seascape) variables for coral reef fishes. Overall, adjacent habitat variables were as important as local reef variables in explaining reef fish density and biomass, despite being fewer in number in final models. For adult and juvenile wrasses (Labridae), and juveniles of some parrotfish taxa (Chlorurus), adjacent habitat was more important in explaining fish density and biomass. Notably, wrasses were positively influenced by the amount of sand and macroalgae in the adjacent seascape. Adjacent habitat metrics with the highest relative importance were sand (positive), macroalgae (positive), and mangrove habitats (negative), and fish responses to these metrics were consistent across fish groups evaluated. The 500-m spatial scale was selected most often in models for seascape variables. Local coral reef variables with the greatest importance were percent cover of live coral (positive), sand (negative), and macroalgae (mixed). Incorporating spatial metrics that describe the surrounding seascape will capture more holistic patterns of fish–habitat relationships on reefs. This is important in regions where protection of reef fish habitat is an integral part of fisheries management but where protection of nonreef habitats is often overlooked.

Item ID: 66595
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-7758
Keywords: coral reef, fish ecology, marine reserves, ontogeny, seascape, spatial analysis
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Copyright Information: © 2020 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
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A version of this publication was included as Chapter 2 of the following PhD thesis: Sievers, Katie T. (2021) Non-reef habitats in a tropical seascape: the effects of the surrounding seascape on coral reef fishes. PhD thesis, James Cook University, which is available Open Access in ResearchOnline@JCU. Please see the Related URLs for access.

Funders: Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation (SWR), Fulbright Program, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Projects and Grants: SWR Grant Number: SWR/3/2016
Date Deposited: 04 May 2021 05:59
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180504 Marine biodiversity @ 100%
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