Influence of staghorn coral on associated fish communities. Johnson, M. E. K. Ph.D. Thesis, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, 2010.
abstract   bibtex   
Branching corals, like many in the genus Acropora, are crucial for providing structurally complex habitats for reef fishes and other organisms. Fluctuations in staghorn Acroporid corals may contribute to changes in the abundance and species composition of reef fishes due to changes in the availability of shelter habitat and food. Farming damselfish of the genus Stegastes occur in high abundances in staghorn thickets and actively defend food and nest space against organisms that threaten these resources. Here we examine the role of staghorn thickets as habitat for fishes, and how the presence of territorial farmerfish may influence the assemblage of fishes that associate with staghorn corals. Surveys of 185 Acropora pulchra thickets at Moorea, French Polynesia revealed 85 species of fish from 25 families, ranging from no fish on a patch to a high of 26 species and 275 individuals. Patch area was the most important characteristic in explaining variation in attributes of the fish assemblage among staghorn patches, with other characteristics explaining little of the species composition or trophic structure. Behavioral observations revealed that farmerfish were most aggressive toward corallivores, herbivores, and egg predators, species drawn to these patches for the food resources they provide, while they ignored most carnivores and omnivores. Despite this pattern, we observed positive co-variance between Stegastes and the group of fish that elicited the strongest aggressive response when the effect of patch area was removed, suggesting these fish remain drawn to the resources provided by the A. pulchra thickets.
@phdthesis{johnson_influence_2010,
	address = {Santa Barbara},
	title = {Influence of staghorn coral on associated fish communities},
	abstract = {Branching corals, like many in the genus Acropora, are crucial for providing structurally complex habitats for reef fishes and other organisms.  Fluctuations in staghorn Acroporid corals may contribute to changes in the abundance and species composition of reef fishes due to changes in the availability of shelter habitat and food.  Farming damselfish of the genus Stegastes occur in high abundances in staghorn thickets and actively defend food and nest space against organisms that threaten these resources.  Here we examine the role of staghorn thickets as habitat for fishes, and how the presence of territorial farmerfish may influence the assemblage of fishes that associate with staghorn corals.  Surveys of 185 Acropora pulchra thickets at Moorea, French Polynesia revealed 85 species of fish from 25 families, ranging from no fish on a patch to a high of 26 species and 275 individuals.  Patch area was the most important characteristic in explaining variation in attributes of the fish assemblage among staghorn patches, with other characteristics explaining little of the species composition or trophic structure.  Behavioral observations revealed that farmerfish were most aggressive toward corallivores, herbivores, and egg predators, species drawn to these patches for the food resources they provide, while they ignored most carnivores and omnivores.  Despite this pattern, we observed positive co-variance between Stegastes and the group of fish that elicited the strongest aggressive response when the effect of patch area was removed, suggesting these fish remain drawn to the resources provided by the A. pulchra thickets.},
	school = {University of California, Santa Barbara},
	author = {Johnson, M. E. K.},
	year = {2010},
	keywords = {MCR, populations}
}
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