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To determine the relative impact of oceanographic vs. benthic processes on recruitment of coral reef fishes to back reef lagoon nursery habitats, we examined the distributions of small fishes (recruits < 3 cm), medium (juvenile 3–5 cm), and large (juvenile/adults > 5 cm)
of five fish taxa at six, 16-ha lagoons of St. Croix, USVI. Since all habitats of a location are influenced by the same oceanographic events, it was hypothesized that rankings of recruit densities on the same habitat types across different lagoons should be similar if oceanographic processes
have a dominant influence on recruitment. Concordance analysis of recruit densities produced no evidence of consistent amongsite differences. It was hypothesized that consistent rankings of habitats within lagoons (e.g., density of post-settlers on rubble habitat ranked higher than seagrass
habitat within all lagoons), indicated post-settlement benthic processes were more influential. Differential use of habitat by recruits was consistent among lagoons and over 2 yrs of study. Patterns of habitat use by juveniles were different from the patterns of recruits. Acanthurus
spp. and Haemulon spp. moved from the lagoon (nursery habitats) to the reef (adult habitat), and densities of large fishes of these species on back reefs were strongly related to the availability of nursery habitat in adjacent lagoons. These ontogenetic changes in habitat use indicate
continuing influence of benthic processes.
The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.