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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps14049

Taxonomic and functional assemblage structure of coral reef fishes from Jardines de la Reina (Caribbean Sea, Cuba)

Zenaida M. Navarro-Martínez, Maickel Armenteros*, Leonardo Espinosa, Juan José Lake, Amy Apprill

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The Jardines de la Reina (JR) archipelago includes one of the largest Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in the Caribbean Sea. However, there is limited understanding about the assemblage structure of its coral reef fishes. We aim (1) to describe the spatial patterns of fish assemblages and their potential drivers along the reef system; and (2) to compare several metrics of assemblages inside and outside of the MPA. We surveyed the ichthyofauna at 12 sites (inside/outside of MPA) along ~200 km of reef tract using a diver operated stereo-video system. We identified 31323 fishes, represented by 95 species and 24 functional groups, including large, rare and threatened species of parrotfishes and groupers. The biomass of fishes from Lutjanidae, Serranidae, and Scaridae families was higher than in other Caribbean reefs. Site and depth explained the larger fraction of variance in most of the evaluated metrics, suggesting the importance of local environmental heterogeneity. Fish assemblages did not show a significant gradient along the JR tract from center of MPA to the periphery. Distance to the center of the MPA explained some of the variability in abundance, functional richness and multivariate structure of assemblage. Our results do not support that there are healthier fish assemblages inside than outside of the MPA. Instead, the ichthyofauna is abundant and both taxonomically and functionally diverse both inside and outside of the MPA probably as a result of spillover effect. The successful combination of natural and management-associated features likely results in an overall good ecological status of fish assemblages in the JR.