Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Tropical seaweed beds as important habitats for juvenile fish

S. A. Tano A D , M. Eggertsen A , S. A. Wikström B , C. Berkström A , A. S. Buriyo C and C. Halling A

A Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden.

B Baltic Sea Centre, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden.

C Department of Botany, University of Dar es Salaam, Box 35060, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

D Corresponding author. Email: stina.tano@gmail.com

Marine and Freshwater Research - https://doi.org/10.1071/MF16153
Submitted: 25 April 2016  Accepted: 5 January 2017   Published online: 22 March 2017

Abstract

Seaweed beds within tropical seascapes have received little attention as potential fish habitat, despite other vegetated habitats, such as seagrass meadows and mangroves, commonly being recognised as important nurseries for numerous fish species. In addition, studies of vegetated habitats rarely investigate fish assemblages across different macrophyte communities. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to investigate the role of tropical seaweed beds as fish habitat, particularly for juvenile fish, by comparing their fish assemblages with those of closely situated seagrass beds. Fish assemblages were assessed by visual census in belt transects, where fish were identified and their length estimated, and habitat variables were estimated for each transect. The abundance of juvenile fish in seaweed beds was twice as high as that in seagrass meadows, whereas there was no difference in total, subadult or adult fish abundance. In addition, the abundance of commercially important and coral reef-associated juveniles was higher in seaweed beds, as was fish species richness. Fish assemblages differed between habitats, with siganids being more common in seagrass meadows and juvenile Labridae and Serranidae more common in seaweed beds. These results highlight that tropical seaweed beds are important juvenile fish habitats and underscore the need to widen the view of the shallow tropical seascape.


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