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A comparison of coral reef and coral community fish assemblages in Pacific Panama and environmental factors governing their structure

  • Sarah Benfield (a1), Laura Baxter (a2), Hector M. Guzman (a3) and James M. Mair (a4)
Abstract

We compared the reef fish assemblages of two habitats, coral reefs and coral communities (rocky substratum with coral colonies), in the Las Perlas Archipelago in Pacific Panama and attempted to determine associations with habitat variables. We used a modified Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) survey to record fish species and quadrat transects to determine benthic composition. Multivariate non-parametric multi-dimensional scaling (MDS) ordinations were performed in PRIMER and univariate correlations were used to determine relationships. The reef fish of coral communities were significantly more diverse and species rich than those of coral reefs. The two habitats had significantly different species and size composition, but trophic and family groups overlapped between habitats. Topography, exposure, and the percentage cover of branching and massive corals correlated significantly with differences in fish parameters. The reef fish assemblages of this region appear to be determined more by the larger scale structural features that characterize the two habitats than by features that vary over small scales within the habitats.

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Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: Sarah Benfield, Marine and Coastal Development Unit, Argyll & Bute Council, Lorn House, Oban, Argyll PA34 4LF, UK email: sarah.benfield@argyll-bute.gov.uk
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