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Determinants of reef fish assemblages in tropical Oceanic islands

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Diversity patterns are determined by biogeographic, energetic, and anthropogenic factors, yet few studies have combined them into a large‐scale framework in order to decouple and compare their relative effects on fish faunas. Using an empirical dataset derived from 1527 underwater visual censuses (UVC) at 18 oceanic islands (five different marine provinces), we determined the relative influence of such factors on reef fish species richness, functional dispersion, density and biomass estimated from each UVC unit. Species richness presented low variation but was high at large island sites. High functional dispersion, density, and biomass were found at islands with large local species pool and distance from nearest reef. Primary productivity positively affected fish richness, density and biomass confirming that more productive areas support larger populations, and higher biomass and richness on oceanic islands. Islands densely populated by humans had lower fish species richness and biomass reflecting anthropogenic effects. Species richness, functional dispersion, and biomass were positively related to distance from the mainland. Overall, species richness and fish density were mainly influenced by biogeographical and energetic factors, whereas functional dispersion and biomass were strongly influenced by anthropogenic factors. Our results extend previous hypotheses for different assemblage metrics estimated from empirical data and confirm the negative impact of humans on fish assemblages, highlighting the need for conservation of oceanic islands.
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Keywords: anthropogenic factors; biogeographic factors; energetic factors

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2019

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