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

Community structure of temperate reef fishes in kelp-dominated subtidal habitats of northern Chile

Alejandro Pérez-Matus A F , Lara A. Ferry-Graham B C , Alfredo Cea D and Julio A. Vásquez A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Departamento de Biología Marina, Facultad de Ciencias del Mar, Universidad Católica del Norte, Casilla 117, Coquimbo, Chile.

B Moss Landing Marine Labs, California State University, 8272 Moss Landing Road, CA 95039, USA.

C CEAZA, Centro de estudios avanzados de Zonas Aridas, Casilla 599, Benavente 980, La Serena, Chile.

D Calle Angosta 32 La Herradura, Coquimbo, Chile.

E Present address: School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington, New Zealand.

F Corresponding author. Email: Alejandro.PerezMatus@vuw.ac.nz

Marine and Freshwater Research 58(12) 1069-1085 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF06200
Submitted: 27 October 2006  Accepted: 1 November 2007   Published: 13 December 2007

Abstract

An important aim of fish ecology is to understand and predict patterns of distribution and abundance in marine communities. Such patterns were examined at four kelp-dominated sites along the northern coast of Chile (19° through 30° S) over 1 year. Fish species richness, diversity and abundance estimates obtained via observational and destructive sampling methods were compared among sites as were habitat and environmental variables that characterised the sites; including sea water temperature below the surface, nutrients, productivity, visibility, density of macroalgae stands, and percentage cover of observed microhabitats (including understorey algae and faunal assemblages). In total, 19 fish species belonging to 14 families were observed from all sites. Species richness and diversity were highest in sites where kelp canopy was composed of two species and where kelp was densest, although only species diversity was significantly different among sites. The sites with high kelp density, in turn, sustained abundant habitat-forming species in the kelp understorey. Principal coordinate analysis indicated that the composition and structure of the fish assemblages varied significantly with depth at all study sites. The depth distribution of fishes was correlated with the arrangement of site-specific biological microhabitats, defined by the algae or invertebrate species that form the microhabitat. Temperature, productivity, and nutrients did not vary consistently across study sites, but did vary within individual sites. We suggest that kelp cover and composition strongly affects the diversity and distribution of fishes at shallow coastal habitats in northern Chile through the availability of microhabitats.

Additional keywords: diversity, fish assemblage, kelp beds, visual census.


Acknowledgements

We thank Francisco Diáz, Horacio Bastias, and Natalio Godoy for the assistance in the field and Sergio Fuentes for assistance in the analyses of nutrients and primary productivity. We appreciate the fishing communities at the different sampled sites who have provided boats and extensive hours of logistical assistance in setting the gill-nets. We wish to thank Franz Smith, Erasmo Macaya, Tyler Eddy, and Patricio Ojeda, who provided support and insights during the study. Wolfgang Stotz, Carlos Gaymer, Malcolm Francis, and two anonymous reviewers provided considerable comments to the earliest version of the manuscript. This paper is part of the Masters Thesis of the first author at the Master Program in Marine Science at Universidad Católica del Norte, Coquimbo Chile. The present study was funded by NSF INT (0308749) grant to LFG and FONDECYT (1040425) grant to JAV.


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