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Effects of Habitat on Reef Fishes Biodiversity and Composition in Rocky Reefs

Xu Zeng, Kisei R. Tanaka, Mackenzie Mazur, Kai Wang, Yong Chen, Shouyu Zhang*

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Reef fish are highly valuable socially, nutritionally and economically. However, they are vulnerable to both overfishing and degradation of their habitat. Understanding of reef fish structure and habitat associations is important for their management and conservation. Using a gillnet survey conducted in a subtropical rocky reef area of Ma’an Archipelago, China, we developed habitat models linking reef fish diversity and composition with habitat factors. The parsimonious Generalized additive models (GAMs) results showed that higher reef fish diversity were associated with southern shallower water, temperature at 25 °C, lower dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll a, and rock bottom type. The Multivariate Generalized Linear Model (MGLM) identified that month, depth, bottom types, and location significantly influenced the composition of local reef fish, these habitat variables explained 18% of the variation in reef fish composition. However, the lack of strong patterns and correlations between species derived from the Joint Species Distribution Model (JSDM) revealed that reefs within our study areas are difficult to classify based on habitat-driven patterns in their associated reef fish assemblages. These findings enhance our understanding of the habitat effects on reef fish diversity and composition, and have relevance for the management of reef fish, including habitat zonation and deployment of artificial reefs.