What attracts juvenile coral reef fish to mangroves: habitat complexity or shade?
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The value of mangroves for fish species is usually explained in terms of high food abundance or shelter against predators as a result of high turbidity and structural complexity. In a field experiment, artificial mangrove units (AMUs) were designed as open cages, each of which was provided with a different degree of structural complexity and shade. Fish species that were attracted to the AMUs were identified and counted and the effects of shade and structural complexity, as well as the interaction between the two factors, were tested. Diurnal fish showed a preference for the greatest structured complexity and for a moderate increase in shade. Two nocturnal species common in local mangroves as well as seagrass beds showed statistically significant effects: densities of Haemulon sciurus were positively related to both shade and structural complexity, whereas only shade had a significant positive effect on densities of Ocyurus chrysurus. The experiment indicated that the attractiveness of mangrove vegetation for H. sciurus may be influenced by the structural complexity of the habitat as well as by the degree of shade, and that both factors are equally and separately important. Individuals of O. chrysurus that are attracted to mangroves are more likely to be influenced by the presence of shade than by the degree of structural complexity. The data thus indicated that the positive relationship between fish densities in mangrove habitats and the degree of shade and structural complexity, or both, is species-specific.
KeywordsPredation Risk Reef Fish Fish Density Nursery Habitat Mangrove Habitat
We would like to thank all the staff of the Carmabi Foundation, where the research was carried out. We also thank E.A. Moody of the Curaçao Seaquarium for her co-operation and her part-time supervision of H. van der Meij. Mark Vermeij kindly lent us his light spate meter. The research was funded by the Netherlands Foundation for the Advancement of Tropical Research (WOTRO). E. Kardinaal supplied us with a map of Spanish Water Bay and the Winkel family allowed us to use their pier. Finally, we thank Prof. P.H. Nienhuis for his comments and suggestions on the manuscript. This is Centre for Wetland Ecology publication no. 324.
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