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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 492:199-210 (2013)  -  DOI:

Evaluating a key herbivorous fish as a mobile link: a Brownian bridge approach

Jordi F. Pagès1,*, Frederic Bartumeus1, Bernat Hereu2, Àngel López-Sanz3, Javier Romero2, Teresa Alcoverro1,4

1Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes (CEAB-CSIC), Accés a la Cala Sant Francesc 14, 17300 Blanes, Catalonia, Spain
2Departament d’Ecologia, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 643, 08028 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
3Institut de Ciències del Mar (ICM-CSIC), Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
4Nature Conservation Foundation, 3076/5, 4th Cross, Gokulam Park, 570 002 Mysore, Karnataka, India

ABSTRACT: By moving between habitats, mobile link organisms serve as vectors of material and energy transport between ecosystems. Additionally, if these mobile species are key organisms, their movement patterns can have profound consequences on the functioning of the ecosystems they link. The Mediterranean herbivorous fish Sarpa salpa has been defined as a key organism in seagrass and rocky macroalgal habitats. Our objective in this study was to evaluate the potential of this species to be considered a mobile link by: (1) assessing its capacity to connect different habitats, the strength of these connections, and the habitat use; and (2) determining whether the patterns observed were consistent on a diel basis and over an annual period. We used the recently developed Brownian bridge movement models (BBMM) framework to analyse the movement patterns of 18 fish tracked with passive acoustic telemetry (mean tracking duration: 103 ± 22 d) and a time-frequency analysis to assess their temporal patterns. Our results showed that S. salpa performed trips between different and distant habitats (on the order of km) with large home ranges (overall mean: 134 ± 10 ha). Despite its high mobility, S. salpa used seagrass more intensively rather than rocky habitats. In addition, our results confirm the existence of diel patterns for this species, mostly observed in the seagrass habitat, with fish moving from shallow areas during the day to deeper areas at night. These patterns were visible for most of the year. Taken together, these results suggest that S. salpa may act as a mobile link by connecting shallow and deep areas of the meadow on a daily basis and linking different and distant habitats over longer temporal scales.

KEY WORDS: Brownian bridge movement models · BBMM · Seascape · Spatial patterns · Sarpa salpa · Temporal patterns

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Cite this article as: Pagès JF, Bartumeus F, Hereu B, López-Sanz À, Romero J, Alcoverro T (2013) Evaluating a key herbivorous fish as a mobile link: a Brownian bridge approach. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 492:199-210.

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