Alternate Title

Cross-Shelf Habitat Utilization Patterns of Reef Fishes in Southwestern Puerto Rico

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In June 2000, the National Ocean Service and University of Puerto Rico initiated a long-term reef-fish-monitoring program in La Parguera, Puerto Rico. Objectives of this ongoing work are to: 1) develop spatially-explicit estimates of reef fish habitat utilization patterns to aid in defining essential habitats, and 2) provide a quantitative and ecologically sound foundation to delineate marine reserve boundaries. Central to this effort are recently completed digital and georeferenced benthic habitat maps for the near-shore waters of Puerto Rico. The GIS-based map served as a framework for development of a spatially stratified reef-fish-monitoring program across the shelf. Simultaneous collections of fish size and abundance data, and micro-scale habitat distribution and quality data were taken along a 25 x 4 m transect for each monitoring station. Sampling included coral reef, mangrove, and seagrass habitats within three cross-shelf zones unique to the insular shelf of La Parguera (inner lagoon, outer lagoon, and bank-shelf). A total of 106 stations were surveyed during the first year of sampling. Over 50,000 fishes, representing 123 species and 36 families were counted. Analyses showed clear patterns of habitat utilization across the seascape, and ontogenetic shifts in habitat selection within some species. Results also indicated that habitat type was more important than cross-shelf location in determining spatial patterns among reef fishes in the study area. Mesoscale spatially-explicit logistic models were developed to estimate distribution and expected density of some species among habitats.

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