Assessment of the aquatic biodiversity of a threatened coastal lagoon at Bimini, Bahamas
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- Jennings, D.E., DiBattista, J.D., Stump, K.L. et al. J Coast Conserv (2012) 16: 405. doi:10.1007/s11852-012-0211-6
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Coastal biodiversity is threatened worldwide by both direct and indirect anthropogenic activities. To more effectively manage and protect coastal biodiversity, accurate assessments of genetic, species, and ecosystem level diversity are required. We present the results from an assessment of the aquatic species diversity of a small (3 km2), shallow, mangrove-fringed Bahamian lagoon (the North Sound) subject to ongoing anthropogenic development. The assessment was conducted through a collation of field observations and data in published literature. We found that eight angiosperm species, 30 macroalgal species, and 370 animal species (including 95 fishes, 69 arthropods, 56 birds, and 45 mollusks) were documented within the lagoon. At least 11 of these species are of conservation concern, such as the critically endangered smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) and hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). Comparisons of community similarity indicated that the North Sound has a relatively distinct fauna and flora, but available data suggest that the species found there are most similar to those found in nearby habitats in Cuba. The lagoon forms a key nursery habitat for many species, including lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris), Caribbean spiny lobsters (Panulirus argus), and queen conch (Strombas gigas). Recently, the lagoon was included as part of a new marine protected area (MPA), but much of the habitat has already experienced considerable anthropogenic disturbance and the MPA boundaries have yet to be established. We have therefore analyzed the lagoon biodiversity and expect the data presented here to serve as a baseline for future comparisons.