The use of clear-water non-estuarine mangroves by reef fishes on the Great Barrier Reef
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- Barnes, L., Bellwood, D.R., Sheaves, M. et al. Mar Biol (2012) 159: 211. doi:10.1007/s00227-011-1801-9
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Within the tropics, mangroves and coral reefs represent highly productive biomes. Although these habitats are often within close proximity, the role and importance of mangrove habitats for reef fish species remains unclear. Throughout the Indo-Pacific, reef fish species appear to have few links with estuarine mangrove habitats. In contrast, clear-water non-estuarine mangrove habitats throughout the Caribbean support many reef fish species and may be fundamental for sustaining reef fish populations. But how important are clear-water non-estuarine mangroves for reef fishes within the Indo-Pacific? Using visual surveys during diurnal high tide, the fish assemblages inhabiting clear-water mangrove and adjacent reef habitats of Orpheus Island, Great Barrier Reef, were recorded. Of the 188 species of fishes that were recorded, only 38 were observed to inhabit both habitats. Of these, only eight were observed more than five times within each habitat. These observations provide little indication that the clear-water mangroves are an important habitat for reef fish species. In addition, although based on just a 3-month survey period, we found little evidence to suggest that these areas are important nurseries for reef fish species. The clear-water mangroves of Orpheus Island may, however, provide an additional foraging area for the few reef fish species that were observed to utilize these habitats during high tide. The difference in the importance of clear-water mangroves for reef fishes within this study compared with clear-water mangrove counterparts within the Caribbean is surprising. Although only preliminary, our observations would support suggestions that the patterns reflect the different hydrological characteristics and evolutionary histories of these two biogeographic regions.