MEPS 289:273-283 (2005) - doi:10.3354/meps289273
Effects of small-scale isolation and predation on fish diversity on experimental reefs
Jonathan Belmaker1,2,*, Nadav Shashar2,3, Yaron Ziv1
ABSTRACT: A positive correlation is often found between fish species diversity on coral reefs and their degree of isolation. We examined whether isolation creates differences in fish assemblages among reefs through changes in predation pressure. First, small artificial reefs were placed at increasing distances from a naturally continuous reef, over a sloping bottom. Species richness and density of each species increased with isolation. Next, artificial reefs were relocated, together with all their fish inhabitants, closer to the natural reef. Following relocation, resident fishes of the artificial reefs exhibited a sharp decline in numbers, while predatory fish density increased. Both video observations of the relocated artificial reefs and the correlation between piscivore aggregation and decline of the resident fishes revealed that the cause of decline was the strong predation around the artificial reefs. The decline was density-dependent, such that the per-capita rate of decline was higher on artificial reefs with higher fish density. This study shows that the impact of piscivores on resident fish is modified by small-scale isolation. The results suggest that the high density of fish on small, isolated reefs is enabled by low predation.
KEY WORDS: Reef fish · Artificial reef · Piscivores · Red Sea
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