Predicting the vertical distributions of reef fish larvae in the Straits of Florida from environmental factors
Abstract:Three seasons of vertically stratified ichthyoplankton sampling at the edge of the Florida Current revealed consistent accumulations of some coral reef fish larvae under taxon-specific environmental conditions. Environmental variability ranging from predictable (seasonal differences in temperature, diel changes in light, and vertical gradients in many variables) to stochastic (changes in wind-driven turbulence and patchiness of zooplankton) was used to model larval distributions. In five taxa, including the commercially important Epinephelini (groupers), relative larval densities were predicted with significant accuracy based entirely on sampling depth. Models yielding these predictions were cross-validated among all seasons, indicating that larval vertical distributions were remarkably unaffected by other environmental factors, while revealing strong behavioral preferences for specific ranges of hydrostatic pressure. Pomacentridae (damselfish) larvae consistently occupied shallower depths at night than during the day, demonstrating diel vertical migrations. At the community level, depth and season were two major factors structuring larval coral reef fish assemblages. Predictable vertical distributions of larvae in the Straits of Florida can facilitate modeling the same taxa elsewhere in the Western Central Atlantic.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: November 1, 2010
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