Processes influencing recruitment inferred from distributions of coral reef fishes
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.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: September 1, 2004
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