Marine Biology

, Volume 156, Issue 3, pp 277–288 | Cite as

Larval supply and juvenile recruitment of coral reef fishes to marine reserves and non-reserves of the upper Florida Keys, USA

  • Kirsten Grorud-ColvertEmail author
  • Su Sponaugle
Original Paper


For marine organisms, decoupling between the planktonic larval stage and the benthic-associated juvenile stage can lead to variable patterns of population replenishment, which have the potential to influence the effectiveness of marine reserves. We measured spatial and temporal variability in larval supply and recruitment of fishes to coral reefs of different protection levels and tested whether protection level influenced the relationship between supply and recruitment. We sampled pre-settlement larvae and newly settled recruits from four reefs (two reserves and two non-reserves) in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, USA. Replicate point measures of larval supply over 14 months and 17 monthly measurements of recruitment varied significantly among months and sites. Sites with the same protection level had significantly different patterns of larval supply as well as larval and recruit diversity, but recruitment magnitude differed only by protection level, where densities were greater at reserves. Differences in larval supply among sites included two particularly large peaks in larval abundance at one site, possibly associated with the observed passage of small-scale oceanographic features. To examine whether relationships between larval supply and recruitment varied by protection level, we selected one species that was present in both the light trap samples and the monthly recruitment surveys. Recruitment of the bicolor damselfish Stegastes partitus was significantly and positively related to larval supply at three of the four sites thus, protection level did not influence this linkage. Since local variability among sites can lead to spatial differences in population replenishment, characterization of larval supply and recruitment to potential marine reserve sites may help to identify optimal locations in a region and contribute to more effective reserve design.


Light Trap Protection Level Coral Reef Fish Marine Reserve Larval Abundance 



We thank E. D’Alessandro, J. Llopiz, S. Cappell, T. Rankin, D. Pinkard, and K. Huebert for help with the light trap collections. Expert aid in larval identification was provided by C. Paris and E. D’Alessandro, who also helped with plankton sample sorting. We thank M. Paddack, K. Denit, D. Pinkard, K. Huebert, E. D’Alessandro, T. Rankin, A. Chapin, C. Boynton, J. Kool, S. Trbovich, C. Guigand, D. Richardson, J. Llopiz, and K. Lamb for help with collecting recruits from the field as part of an ongoing recruitment survey in the upper Florida Keys. Fish were collected under permits # 02R-524A from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, #2002-025A and 2004–024 from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and #01-056 under the UM Animal Care and Use Committee. MODIS ocean color images were provided by University of South Florida Institute for Marine and Remote Sensing. This manuscript benefited from the comments of J. Bohnsack, R. Cowen, J. McManus, S. Sogard, and two anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marine Biology and Fisheries Division, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric ScienceUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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