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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 581:135-147 (2017)  -  DOI:

Seagrass corridors and tidal state modify how fish use habitats on intertidal coral reef flats

Jean P. Davis1,2,*, Kylie A. Pitt1, Andrew D. Olds1,3, Alastair R. Harborne4,5, Rod M. Connolly

1Australian Rivers Institute - Coast and Estuaries, and Griffith School of Environment, Griffith University, Gold Coast, QLD 4222, Australia
2California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Marine Region, Los Alamitos, CA 90720, USA
3School of Science and Engineering, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, QLD 4558, Australia
4Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, North Miami, FL 33181, USA
5Marine Spatial Ecology Laboratory and Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Identifying pathways that animals use to move among ecosystems has become a focus for improving conservation planning. The function of habitat corridors in facilitating animal movement among terrestrial ecosystems is well established. By contrast, the role of habitat corridors for the movement of marine animals is poorly understood. We used underwater video cameras to evaluate the effects of seagrass corridors and water depth on fish abundance, and the arrival of prey and predatory species on intertidal coral reef flats in eastern Australia. Cameras were placed in intertidal seagrass and unvegetated habitats during incoming tides and recorded fish that moved across these habitats. We found some evidence that fish were more abundant over intertidal seagrass, particularly garfish Hyporhamphus regularis ardelio, striped barracuda Sphyraena obtusata and striped grunter Pelates sexlineatus, but most species did not appear to use the intertidal seagrass as a corridor. Prey fish were generally more abundant at shallower water depths, whereas predators were more common in deeper water, but many species were present over intertidal flats throughout the incoming tide. Our findings show that the movement of fishes across intertidal flats is dynamic, and depends on the species of interest, the composition of intertidal seascapes and tidal condition. Understanding how biotic and abiotic factors interact to influence fish movement and shape patterns in habitat use is a critical challenge for conservation planning in shallow coral reef seascapes.

KEY WORDS: Habitat corridor · Predation refuge · Underwater video · Mangrove

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Cite this article as: Davis JP, Pitt KA, Olds AD, Harborne AR, Connolly RM (2017) Seagrass corridors and tidal state modify how fish use habitats on intertidal coral reef flats. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 581:135-147.

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