, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 153-173

Patterns of abundance and size structure in the blue groper, Achoerodus viridis (Pisces, Labridae): evidence of links between estuaries and coastal reefs

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Abstract

Linkages between estuarine nursery areas and coastal reefs are thought to be important for sustaining populations of some reef fishes. Patterns of abundance and size structure in the blue groper, Achoerodus viridis (Pisces: Labridae), were documented at sites extending from sheltered reefs and seagrass, Zostera capricorni, habitats, in shallows of estuaries, to adjacent exposed reefs in New South Wales, Australia. Numbers of juvenile fish (< 200 mm SL) decreased from shallow to deep areas of reef within a site and from inner to outer estuarine sites within two estuaries. Increased numbers of large fish (> 400 mm SL) were found on the more exposed coastal reefs. These patterns were consistent over the 21/2 year study (May 1991–December 1993). Recruits were found in both seagrass and rocky reef habitat, and showed similar patterns of abundance to juveniles. Recruitment of A. viridis to seagrass habitat occurred in distinct seasonal pulses each year; peak recruitment occurred in September and October of each year. Patterns of abundance and size structure were consistent with a model of estuarine recruitment and movement to the open coast, but alternatives, such as differential mortality, could not be discounted.