Climatic conditions and nursery habitat quality provide indicators of reef fish recruitment strength

Shaun K. Wilson, Martial Depczynski, Thomas H. Holmes, Mae M. Noble, Ben T. Radford, Paul Tinkler, Christopher J. Fulton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Identifying and protecting nursery habitats for species is a key conservation strategy for the long-term sustainability of populations. In tropical ecosystems, macroalgal habitats have recently been identified as nurseries for fish of commercial and conservation significance. Here, we explore how local-scale variations in seaweed habitat quality interact with large-scale climatic conditions (Southern Oscillation Index, SOI) to influence the recruitment of three tropical fish species (Lethrinus spp.), often targeted by fishers. New fish recruits and juveniles of all species were almost exclusively found in macroalgal nursery habitats, while adults of two of these species were predominantly found on adjacent coral reefs. Annual supply rates of new recruits were found to be strongly correlated to variations in the SOI, with La Nina conditions associated with higher recruitment. However, local rates of recruitment were generally poor predictors of older juvenile abundance. Instead, local juvenile abundance was more closely related to structural characteristics of macroalgae nursery habitat quality (density, canopy height, canopy cover) and/or predator biomass, at the time of survey, with species-specific habitat associations apparent. Given the dynamic nature of fish recruitment supply to the SOI, coupled with the effects of climatic and oceanic processes on the structure of macroalgal patches, these results suggest protection of macroalgal nursery habitats that maintain high canopy density, height and cover is critical to supporting the conservation of fish populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1868–1880
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Volume62
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017

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habitat quality
strength (mechanics)
reefs
reef
Southern Oscillation
habitat
fish
habitats
canopy
oscillation
macroalgae
La Nina
Lethrinus
seaweed
coral reef
tropical fish
indicator
sustainability
predator
coral reefs

Cite this

Wilson, Shaun K. ; Depczynski, Martial ; Holmes, Thomas H. ; Noble, Mae M. ; Radford, Ben T. ; Tinkler, Paul ; Fulton, Christopher J. / Climatic conditions and nursery habitat quality provide indicators of reef fish recruitment strength. In: Limnology and Oceanography. 2017 ; Vol. 62, No. 5. pp. 1868–1880.
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Climatic conditions and nursery habitat quality provide indicators of reef fish recruitment strength. / Wilson, Shaun K.; Depczynski, Martial; Holmes, Thomas H.; Noble, Mae M.; Radford, Ben T.; Tinkler, Paul; Fulton, Christopher J.

In: Limnology and Oceanography, Vol. 62, No. 5, 09.2017, p. 1868–1880.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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