We conducted an analysis of species associations using fish diversity and abundance surveys conducted in Bonaire Marine Park by recreational divers. We used data from the REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation) Fish Survey Project to compute Bray–Curtis similarity coefficients for all species pairs for the 100 most abundant species. We quantified relationships between species using hierarchical agglomerative clustering and non-metric multidimensional scaling (MDS) of the matrix of Bray–Curtis similarity coefficients. We identified three clusters of species from the analysis. MDS results showed species clusters occupied distinct regions across a continuous gradient of species in two-dimensional space, rather than form distinct clusters. While differences in habitat requirements can explain some of the pattern in pairwise species interactions, these results suggest that there are significant direct and indirect behavioral interactions mediating the distribution and abundance of species. Studies conducted to elucidate patterns of species-habitat relationships have been central to conservation planning for marine protected areas (MPAs). However, the role of behavioral interactions between species driving the dynamics of species composition within MPA networks, designed for representation of biological diversity, should be considered when selecting sites in order to be effective.
visual census diver survey similarity matrix habitat behavior reef fish