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Publication Details

Diel movements of ?shes linked to benthic seascape structure in a Caribbean coral reef ecosystem

Author(s): Hitt, S., S.J. Pittman, and R.S. Nemeth

NCCOS Center: CCMA (

Center Team: Biogeography

Publication Type: Journal Article

Journal Title: Mar Ecol Prog Ser

Date of Publication: 2011

Reference Information: 427 275-291

Extent of Work: 16 pp.

Abstract: Many common ?shes associated with Caribbean coral reef ecosystems use resources from more than 1 patch type during routine daily foraging activities. Few studies have provided direct evidence of connectivity across seascapes, and the importance of benthic seascape structure on movement behavior is poorly known. To address this knowledge gap, we coupled hydro-acoustic technology to track ?sh with sea?oor mapping and pattern analysis techniques from landscape ecology to quantify seascape structure. Bluestriped grunts Haemulon sciurus and schoolmaster snapper Lutjanus apodus were tracked over 24 h periods using boat-based acoustic telemetry. Movement pathways, and day and night activity spaces were mapped using geographical information system (GIS) tools, and sea?oor structure within activity spaces was mapped from high-resolution aerial photography and quanti?ed using spatial pattern metrics. For both ?sh species, night activity spaces were signi?cantly larger than day activity spaces. Fish exhibited a daytime preference for seascapes with aggregate coral reef and colonized bedrock, then shifted to night activity spaces with lowercomplexity soft sediment including sand, seagrass, and scattered coral/rock. Movement path complexity was negatively correlated with seascape complexity. This demonstrates direct connectivity across multiple patch types and represents the ?rst study to apply quantitative landscape ecology techniques to examine the movement ecology of marine ?sh. The spatially explicit approach facilitates understanding to the linkages between biological processes and the heterogeneity of the landscape. Such studies are essential for identifying ecologically relevant spatial scales, delineating essential ?sh habitat and designing marine protected areas.

Availability: Online.

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