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Seines and baited-remote underwater video document consistent spatiotemporal patterns in nekton communities of subtropical coastal habitats

Kerry E. Flaherty-Walia*, Carissa L. Gervasi, John P. Davis, Shakira Trabelsi, Zachary Fratto, Rolando O. Santos, Philip W. Stevens, Richard E. Matheson Jr, Jennifer S. Rehage

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ABSTRACT: Monitoring nekton using multiple types of gear over a range of estuarine habitats is necessary for assessing changes in ecosystems, the effects of natural and anthropogenic disturbances, and management related to habitat restoration and protection. To assess the utility of two types of gear (seines and baited-remote underwater videos [BRUVs]) used in many monitoring programs, nekton community metrics were compared across three adjacent, hydrologically distinct coastal basins in Florida Bay (Florida, USA) across seasons (wet vs. dry) and three water years (2016–2019). In these basins, projects are underway to restore freshwater inflow. Spatiotemporal patterns in catch-per-unit-effort and species richness were consistent among types of gear, and nekton assemblages differed significantly among basins. Although similar in size and spatial area, the three study basins were notably different in habitat (hydrology, water depth, substrate, submerged aquatic vegetation), and one basin exhibited distinct basin-specific trends in nekton community structure and lower nekton abundance and species richness across types of gear. Temporal differences in nekton assemblages reflected seasonal shifts and were strongly affected by the passage of a hurricane (Irma, 2017). Although seines and BRUVs revealed similar patterns, seine surveys captured more overall species diversity and prey species, while BRUVs could be used in a greater variety of habitats and documented more predators. These results demonstrate the effectiveness of complementary types of gear in tracking variation in estuarine communities and highlight the importance of a sampling design that successfully monitors species throughout the food web and estuarine seascape.