Inter-Research > MEPS > v495 > p233-247  

MEPS 495:233-247 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10594

Eastern Pacific reef fish responses to coral recovery following El Niño disturbances

P. W. Glynn1,*, I. C. Enochs2, J. A. Afflerbach1,3, V. W. Brandtneris1,4, J. E. Serafy1,5

1Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, Florida 33149, USA
2Cooperative Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Studies, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, Florida 33149, USA
3Center for Ocean Solutions, Heritage Harbor Complex, 99 Pacific Street, Suite 555E, Monterey, California 93940, USA
4University of the Virgin Islands, 2 John Brewer’s Bay, St Thomas, US Virgin Islands 00802, USA
5Southeast Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, 75 Virginia Beach Drive, Miami, Florida 33149, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: This study examined fluctuations in an eastern Pacific reef fish assemblage as it varied with coral recovery over 30 yr. Concurrent fish and coral monitoring were conducted at Uva Island reef, which lies within the boundaries of Coiba National Park, Panama, in an area that has received virtually no fishing pressure or watershed development over the past 80 yr. Coral and fish monitoring spanned the 1982-1983 and 1997-1998 El Niño disturbances—anomalous warming events that selectively killed reef-building corals. While no fish mortalities were observed during the 1982-1983 El Niño event, live coral cover was reduced to nearly 0% at the study reef. From 1984 to 1990, live coral (Pocillopora spp.) cover was extremely low (< 5%), but demonstrated steady recovery to ~35% by 2010. By quantifying disturbance-related, long-term changes in coral reef resources and relating these to fish trophic group responses, several functional relationships emerged. A total of 63 fish taxa were observed, and reef fish density (all taxa combined) remained relatively stable. Multivariate analysis of species abundances revealed a strong overlap between seasons and a clustering of community composition in the years following bleaching. Fish species richness increased significantly as live coral cover rose from near 0 to 15-20% and then demonstrated a decreasing trend to 35% cover. Benthic invertivores showed a significant parabolic increase in density peaking at ~20% live coral cover. A pattern of decline was apparent for the mixed diet feeders guild as coral cover increased, whereas an asymptotic relationship with coral cover emerged for the facultative corallivore guild. No clear patterns in herbivore, piscivore and planktivore abundance were apparent with increasing coral cover. The varying responses of invertivore, corallivore and mixed diet feeders guilds demonstrated strong associations with coral cover, probably reflecting changes in the availability of their respective trophic resources during reef recovery. Thus, variations in coral cover probably influence fish communities through trophic pathways involving invertebrate food sources.


KEY WORDS: Reef fish community responses · El Niño disturbances


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Cite this article as: Glynn PW, Enochs IC, Afflerbach JA, Brandtneris VW, Serafy JE (2014) Eastern Pacific reef fish responses to coral recovery following El Niño disturbances. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 495:233-247. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10594

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