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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 698:1-14 (2022)  -  DOI:

A multi-tiered assessment of fish community responses to habitat restoration in a coastal lagoon

Brittany V. Troast1,2,*, Linda J. Walters1, Geoffrey S. Cook1

1Department of Biology, University of Central Florida, 4110 Libra Dr., Orlando, FL 32816, USA
2Present address: Cooperative Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Studies, Ocean Chemistry and Ecosystems Division, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Essential fish habitat is critical for foraging, breeding, or as refugia. As such, restoration of these habitats has the potential to increase the diversity and abundance of fishes. Here, we explored how fish communities responded in the first 12-24 mo following oyster reef restoration. Study sites included 8 restored reefs plus 4 live and 4 dead reefs as controls. Oyster reef metrics (e.g. density, height, thickness) and fish abundance and diversity metrics were quantified, including species richness, Shannon diversity, Simpson’s diversity, and Pielou’s evenness. Species composition was explored further to identify indicator species and assess habitat preferences. Patterns of fish community diversity and species composition were compared to oyster reef metrics to discern what oyster reef characteristics best predict fish diversity. Results showed that intertidal oyster reefs were structurally restored and shifted from resembling negative control reefs to positive control reefs within 12-24 mo. Across all treatment types, oyster shell height and reef thickness were the best predictors of fish diversity. However, at the fish community level, assemblages at restored reefs were similar to those at positive and negative controls. Species-level analyses suggest treatment types have unique indicator species, including Chilomycterus schoepfi (striped burrfish) for dead reefs, Lutjanus synagris (lane snapper) for restored reefs, and Gobiosoma robustum (code goby) for live reefs. This work suggests fishes can be used as higher trophic level indicators of restoration success, and ecosystem-based approaches, such as habitat restoration, can restore essential fish habitat, thus benefiting fish communities while moving coastal ecosystems toward sustainability.

KEY WORDS: Diversity · Ecosystem-based management · Indicator species · Oyster reef · Indian River Lagoon

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Cite this article as: Troast BV, Walters LJ, Cook GS (2022) A multi-tiered assessment of fish community responses to habitat restoration in a coastal lagoon. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 698:1-14.

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