MEPS 299:277-288 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps299277

Distribution of coral reef fishes along a coral reef–seagrass gradient: edge effects and habitat segregation

Martijn Dorenbosch, Monique G. G. Grol, Ivan Nagelkerken*, Gerard van der Velde

Department of Animal Ecology and Ecophysiology, Institute for Wetland and Water Research, Radboud University Nijmegen,Toernooiveld 1, 6525 ED Nijmegen, The Netherlands

ABSTRACT: Coral reefs and seagrass beds are often located adjacent to one another, but little is known about the degree to which their fish communities are interlinked. To determine whether coral reef fishes on the coral reef are interlinked with or segregated from fishes on adjacent seagrass beds, a 60 m coral reef–seagrass gradient was studied on the island of Zanzibar in the western Indian Ocean. Using underwater visual census, coral reef fishes were surveyed in 4 habitat zones: (1) a coral patch reef, (2) seagrass beds bordering the coral reef, (3) seagrass beds at a 30 m distance from the coral reef edge and (4) seagrass beds at a 60 m distance from the coral reef edge. Based on the densities of juveniles and adults in the 4 zones, the 48 species that were observed were classified into reef-associated species, seagrass-associated species, nursery species, generalists and rare species. Reef-associated species occurred almost exclusively on the coral reef and at the reef–seagrass edge, while seagrass-associated species occurred almost exclusively on the seagrass beds. Generalists and seagrass-associated species occurred in all 3 seagrass zones, but densities of generalists on seagrass beds decreased with increasing distance from the reef, whereas that of seagrass-associated species increased. Reef-associated and generalist species showed an edge effect, where densities on the seagrass beds near the reef edge were higher than on the seagrass beds further away. Juvenile densities of nursery species on seagrass beds also increased with the distance from the reef, whereas their adults showed the highest densities on the coral reef, suggesting a possible ontogenetic shift from the seagrass beds to the reef. The results of the present study show that this seagrass–coral reef landscape features habitat segregation between species and life stages and shows an edge effect, possibly driven by competition mechanisms between species or life stages.


KEY WORDS: Coral reef fish · Seagrass beds · Habitat connectivity · Species interaction · Migrations · Edge effect


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