Influence of nursery microhabitats on the future abundance of a coral reef fish

Shaun K. Wilson, Martial Depczynski, C.J. Fulton, Thomas H. Holmes, B.T. Radford, P. Tinkler

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14 Citations (Scopus)


© 2016 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.Species habitat associations are often complex, making it difficult to assess their influence on populations. Among coral reef fishes, habitat requirements vary among species and with ontogeny, but the relative importance of nursery and adult-preferred habitats on future abundances remain unclear. Moreover, adult populations may be influenced by recruitment of juveniles and assessments of habitat importance should consider relative effects of juvenile abundance.We conducted surveys across 16 sites and 200 km of reef to identify the microhabitat preferences of juveniles, sub-adults and adults of the damselfish Pomacentrus moluccensis. Microhabitat preferences at different life-history stages were then combined with 6 years of juvenile abundance and microhabitat availability data to show that the availability of preferred juvenile microhabitat (corymbose corals) at the time of settlementwas a strong predictor of future sub-adult and adult abundance. However, the influence of nursery microhabitats on future population size differed spatially and at some locations abundance of juveniles and adult microhabitat (branching corals) were better predictors of local populations. Our results demonstrate that while juvenile microhabitats are important nurseries, the abundance of coral-dependent fishes is not solely dependent on these microhabitats, especially when microhabitats are readily available or following large influxes of juveniles.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1836
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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