MEPS 277:231-244 (2004)  -  doi:10.3354/meps277231

Habitat-dependent recruitment of two temperate reef fishes at multiple spatial scales

Kelly S. Andrews1,2,*, Todd W. Anderson1

1Department of Biology, San Diego State University, San Diego, California 92182-4614, USA
2Present address: NOAA Fisheries, 2725 Montlake Boulevard East, Seattle, Washington 98112, USA

ABSTRACT: The distribution and abundance of reef fishes has often been attributed to several processes that result in some measure of recruitment success (settlement and survival of young individuals). We employed a large-scale experimental rocky reef system to examine patterns of recruitment of 2 fishes, the California sheephead Semicossyphus pulcher and the blackeye goby Rhinogobiops nicholsii. We quantified recruitment over a 2 yr period on 21 experimental reefs (each 1600 m2) that represented low, medium, and high treatments of habitat coverage. Recruitment of California sheephead was higher on reefs of medium habitat coverage than on reefs with other coverages, while the blackeye goby exhibited lower recruitment on reefs of low coverage than on reefs with other coverages. Within reefs, recruitment to Œedge¹ habitat was lower than Œinside¹ the reef for each species. At the smallest scale, several measures of habitat structure were quantified within 1 m2 quadrats to identify microhabitat characteristics that might explain the distribution of recruits. Rugosity was an important characteristic for predicting the presence of recruits for each species at this small scale. The densities of recruits of California sheephead among treatments of habitat corresponded to the densities of Age 1+ (individuals which recruited during the previous year) california sheephead among treatments the following year, suggesting that spatial patterns of abundance may be established early in life. The abundance of predators did not appear to influence the patterns of recruitment observed for either species. Low densities of recruits for each species may have led to the patterns of recruitment observed through the processes of habitat selection at settlement and density-independent mortality. Longer temporal studies covering variable recruitment are needed to determine the importance of habitat structure relative to other processes.

KEY WORDS: Recruitment · Habitat · California sheephead · Blackeye goby

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