Cryptobenthic fish biodiversity and microhabitat use in healthy and degraded coral reefs in SE Sulawesi, Indonesia
Cryptobenthic fishes occur in high densities on coral reefs, though due to their small size and cryptic nature they are often overlooked when quantifying reef biodiversity. This study examines their distribution on shallow reefs in SE Sulawesi, Indonesia, and assesses changes in habitat utilization when subject to reef degradation. Cryptic fishes were sampled from dominant microhabitat types in healthy and degraded reefs within the Wakatobi Marine National Park located in SE Sulawesi. High biodiversity of cryptobenthic fishes was found with 50 species representing 13 families. Traditional metrics (i.e. density, diversity) showed few differences between healthy and degraded reefs, though further investigations revealed differences occurred in community composition. Additional analyses of individual species demonstrated that reef degradation could have positive or negative effects on populations depending on type and strength of habitat associations. In summary, cryptobenthic fishes are altering their habitat use on degraded reefs, which will likely have repercussions on coral reef dynamics.
KeywordsFish Biodiversity Coral reefs Habitat degradation Indonesia
The authors thank the staff at the Hoga Marine Research Centre for their logistic support and Operation Wallacea who provided financial support for travel, subsistence and fieldwork. The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Prof. J. Jompa (UNHAS), the Wallacea Foundation, The Wakatobi Government, The Taman National Wakatobi and The State Ministry of Research and Technology (RISTEK) who made this work possible through the provision of a research permit to D.J.S. Taxonomic identification would not be possible without help from L. Tornabene. We would also like to thank J. Curtis-Quick, D. Lazell, and numerous others for field assistance, A. Powell for the fish monitoring data, S. Rowley for sediment data, and J. Williams for creating Fig. 1.
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