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Reef fish functional composition and metrics reveal spatial differences in three natural protected islands from Eastern Pacific

Diana Morales-de-Anda, Amílcar Leví Cupul-Magaña*, Fabián A. Rodríguez-Zaragoza, Consuelo Aguilar-Betancourt, Gaspar González-Sansón, Alma Paola Rodríguez-Troncoso

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Reef fish assemblages from the Eastern Pacific (EP) represent an interesting scenario to understand how areas with lower diversity respond to multiple factors and their effect on ecosystem functions and services; among the multiple approaches that have emerged, the evaluation of functional metrics provides an initial comprehension of this relation. Under this context, to better understand reef fish variability from EP, we evaluated spatial differences in ecological metrics, the composition of fish assemblages, and their relationship with habitat structure in coral communities from three islands in Mexico (Marietas, Isabel, Cleofas). To include a functional approach, we created a functional entities (FEs) matrix using species abundance and six categorical functional traits; we calculated ecological metrics that reflect: the representation or under-representation of species in the functions or FEs (redundancy and vulnerability), the rarity in FEs and species and their relationship with the habitat structure. Overall, most of the fish FEs from EP were represented by one species (high vulnerability and low redundancy). Despite the low redundancy recorded in the islands, reef fish performed multiple key functions; however, many remained rare. Furthermore, both metrics and fish composition showed high variability among sites and islands; nonetheless, this variability was only partially explained by a few variables of habitat structure (i.e., rugosity). These results, in combination with the unique characteristics of coral communities in EP, highlight the need to identify the drivers of fish assemblages and their effect on the ecosystem processes and services in order to implement unique management strategies for each island.