Homogenization of Fish Assemblages Off the Coast of Florida
Biological homogenization can alter the ecological function of systems as well as the economic value associated with those ecosystems through complex socio-ecological dynamics. The aim of this chapter is twofold: (1) to document evidence of biological homogenization across marine fish assemblages off the coast of Florida and (2) to discuss how social values may influence, and are influenced by, the biological homogenization of coastal fish assemblages. We measured biological homogenization by tracking taxonomic changes over a decade across 13 near-shore sites off the Atlantic coast of Florida. We created species-location matrices for each site, calculated recently and a decade prior, and quantitatively depicted assemblage similarity changes between sites using a hierarchical clustering algorithm. We found evidence of biological homogenization of some fish assemblages, but not all, and relatively little change in site species richness. Sites that were closer to populated coastlines, or have been subject to substantial disturbance events, are more likely to show homogenization. Protected reef sites show little evidence of homogenization. We postulate feedback mechanisms between societal values, diver practices, diver experience, and the severity of homogenization. We suggest that cultural values directly influence diver behavior, which in turn can affect assemblage homogenization. These socio-ecological feedbacks have received very little attention in the context of coastal fish conservation, but deserve attention given the perilous state of such ecosystems worldwide.
KeywordsEcotourism Diving Marine Reefs Fish Homogenization Florida Caribbean
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