MEPS 452:159-170 (2012)  -  DOI:

Sea cucumber (Aspidochirotida) community, distribution and habitat utilization on the reefs of Mayotte, Western Indian Ocean

Hampus Eriksson1,2,*, Maria Byrne2, Maricela de la Torre-Castro1,3

1Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
2Schools of Medical and Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia
3Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

ABSTRACT: The tropical sea cucumber (Aspidochirotida) fishery for the lucrative Asian dried-seafood trade is a multi-species fishery with little ecological knowledge. To improve ecological understanding of the targeted species, the reefs of Mayotte, Western Indian Ocean, were surveyed to document the distribution, species assemblage and habitat utilization of commercial sea cucumbers. This is one of the few reef areas in the region protected from fishing, thus providing an important and unique opportunity to investigate sea cucumber ecology. Twenty-two species were observed. The medium-value Bohadschia atra and the high-value Holothuria nobilis were the most abundant species. Species distribution varied but the density was generally similar across areas and habitats. Multivariate analysis (ANOSIM) indicated that the community was similar between surveyed areas and reef habitats. Diversity was lower in one of the surveyed areas and in the ocean-facing barrier reef habitat. Habitat complexity was not a significant driver of diversity or abundance. A principal component analysis showed that the 6 most common species (B. atra, Holothuria atra, H. fuscopunctata, H. nobilis and Thelenota ananas) were associated with different substrate types. Clustering these species according to substrate variables indicated both habitat utilization overlap and segregation among species, valuable information for spatial planning of fisheries management and conservation. Although unique species were observed in some areas, the present study shows that, at a large spatial scale, the unfished reefs in Mayotte consist of similar commercial sea cucumber communities, an important baseline finding.

KEY WORDS: Coral reefs · Bêche-de-mer · Trepang · Habitat · Ecosystem-based management · Fisheries management · Tropical seascape

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Cite this article as: Eriksson H, Byrne M, Torre-Castro Mdl (2012) Sea cucumber (Aspidochirotida) community, distribution and habitat utilization on the reefs of Mayotte, Western Indian Ocean. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 452:159-170.

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