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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 379:225-240 (2009)  -  DOI:

Variable temporal relationships between environment and recruitment in coral reef fishes

Henri Vallès1,*, Wayne Hunte2, Donald L. Kramer1

1Department of Biology, McGill University, 1205 Avenue Docteur Penfield, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1B1, Canada
2Department of Biological and Chemical Sciences, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, University Drive, Cave Hill, St. Michael, Barbados

ABSTRACT: Studies of coral reef fish recruitment have focused more on factors influencing the return of larvae to reefs and the process of settlement than on factors affecting survival in the plankton, despite the well-documented importance of the larval environment for temperate marine species. We examined the ability of environmental factors to explain temporal patterns of recruitment in 8 taxa of coral reef fishes, distinguishing variables associated with settlement from those associated with the pelagic larval stage. At 10 d intervals over a 17 mo period, we collected newly settled fishes from settlement units in Barbados (West Indies). We collected concurrent data on 3 settlement-associated variables, lunar darkness, wind speed, and tidal amplitude, and 5 larval environment variables, sea-surface temperature, cloud cover, salinity, chlorophyll a concentration, and normalized water-leaving radiance at 555 nm. The last 3 were associated with low-salinity intrusions originating in the Amazon. We used hierarchical partitioning and Mallow’s C(p) model selection to identify important variables for each taxon. Temporal patterns of recruitment differed among taxa of which 6 showed significant environmental correlations. Significant settlement variables included lunar darkness and tidal amplitude. Significant larval environment variables were diverse and varied in magnitude and sign across taxa. The effects of larval variables were generally strong relative to settlement variables. The temporal scale of the strongest environmental predictor differed across taxa. Our study supports the views that planktonic factors affecting larval survival substantially influence recruitment in coral reef fishes and that different species are affected differently by a common, temporally variable, planktonic environment.

KEY WORDS: Settlement · SMURF · Rubble · Pomacentridae · Labridae · Serranidae · Scaridae · Gobiidae

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Cite this article as: Vallès H, Hunte W, Kramer DL (2009) Variable temporal relationships between environment and recruitment in coral reef fishes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 379:225-240.

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