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 Just Accepted

This article has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. It is in production and has not been edited, so may differ from the final published form.

In situ effects of human disturbances on coral reef fish assemblage structure: temporary and persisting changes are reflected as a result of intensive tourism

Tiago Albuquerque, Jose Nunes, Miguel Loiola, José Amorim Reis-Filho, Claudio Sampaio, Antoine Leduc


Non-lethal human disturbances are often drivers of change in animal population and community structure. To gauge their severity, short-term behaviour (e.g., avoidance and habituation) has been argued to be a sensitive measure. However, many of these behavioural changes may only occur if disturbance-free habitat is readily accessible. In coral-reef fish, we tested if disturbances from intensive touristic visitations resulted in assemblage structure shifts led by short-term behaviour. We monitored fish assemblage before, during and after visitations to monitor changes associated with behaviour. Additionally, we monitored two adjacent reefs, distanced by 400 m and not visited by tourists. We posited that if short-term benefits of relocating to disturbance-free habitat outweigh the costs of tolerating disturbances, fish assemblage structure should shift along with visitation levels. By contrast, if sensitive species are unable or unwilling to relocate, we predicted greater assemblage heterogeneity between visited and control reefs. We showed that human visitations led to significant shifts in assemblage structure led by short-term behaviour. Additionally, we showed significant between-reefs differences, whereby control reefs were characterized by higher species richness, larger sizes and differences in relative guilds prevalence. We suggest that short-term relocations to adjacent disturbance-free reefs may not mitigate the effects of human disturbances.

MF13185  Accepted 21 March 2014
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