Author(s): Almany GR
Abstract Share this page
Abstract Greater structural complexity is often associated with greater abundance and diversity, perhaps because high complexity habitats reduce predation and competition. Using 16 spatially isolated live-coral reefs in the Bahamas, I examined how abundance of juvenile (recruit) and adult (non-recruit) fishes was affected by two factors: (1) structural habitat complexity and (2) the presence of predators and interference competitors. Manipulating the abundance of low and high complexity corals created two levels of habitat complexity, which was cross-factored with the presence or absence of resident predators (sea basses and moray eels) plus interference competitors (territorial damselfishes). Over 60 days, predators and competitors greatly reduced recruit abundance regardless of habitat complexity, but did not affect adult abundance. In contrast, increased habitat complexity had a strong positive effect on adult abundance and a weak positive effect on recruit abundance. Differential responses of recruits and adults may be related to the differential effects of habitat complexity on their primary predators. Sedentary recruits are likely most preyed upon by small resident predators that ambush prey, while larger adult fishes that forage widely and use reefs primarily for shelter are likely most preyed upon by large transient predators that chase prey. Increased habitat complexity may have inhibited foraging by transient predators but not resident predators. Results demonstrate the importance of habitat complexity to community dynamics, which is of concern given the accelerated degradation of habitats worldwide.
This article was published in Oecologia
and referenced in Journal of Aquaculture Research & Development