MEPS 302:63-76 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps302063

Indo-Pacific seagrass beds and mangroves contribute to fish density and diversity on adjacent coral reefs

M. Dorenbosch, M. G. G. Grol, M. J. A. Christianen, I. Nagelkerken*,G. van der Velde

Department of Animal Ecology and Ecophysiology, Institute for Water and Wetland Research, Faculty of Science,Radboud University Nijmegen, Toernooiveld 1, 6525 ED, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: There is a long-standing debate whether mangrove and seagrass habitats in the Indo-Pacific region function as nurseries for coral reef fishes. We studied the use of all major shallow-water habitat types by juvenile coral reef fish using visual census surveys at 4 islands along the Tanzanian coast (East Africa) and at the island of Grande Comoros (Comoros archipelago). We investigated the value of mangroves, seagrass beds, coral reefs, macroalgae and intertidal flats as a juvenile habitat for fish by studying density distribution patterns of juveniles and adults of 76 reef fish species in these habitats. We assessed (1) which part of the reef fish community used mangrove–seagrass habitats as juvenile or adult habitats, (2) whether adult fish densities and diversity on adjacent reefs were related to the presence of these shallow habitats, and (3) whether adults of species that use these habitats when juvenile were less abundant on coral reefs situated far away from these juvenile habitats. Seagrass beds and coral reefs were the most important juvenile fish habitats. Ontogenetic migrations between seagrass beds and reef habitats possibly occur, since several species showed their highest juvenile densities on seagrass beds, whereas adults showed their highest densities on reefs adjacent to these seagrass beds. The presence of areas with seagrass beds positively influenced adult densities of many reef fish species on adjacent coral reefs. Of the 36 fish species whose juveniles were observed in seagrass beds along the Tanzanian coast, 32 species were absent from or showed low densities on coral reefs of the island of Grande Comoros (lacking seagrass beds or mangroves). On reefs far from seagrass beds and mangroves along the Tanzanian coast, 25 of these 36 species were absent or showed low densities in comparison with reefs adjacent to these habitats.

KEY WORDS: Coral reef fish · Seagrass beds · Mangroves · Juveniles · Habitat connectivity · Indian Ocean

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