TitleLarval supply and juvenile recruitment of coral reef fishes to marine reserves and non-reserves of the upper Florida Keys, USA
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsGrorud-Colvert, K, Sponaugle, S
JournalMarine Biology
Type of ArticleJournal Article

For marine organisms, decoupling between the planktonic larval stage and the benthic-associated juvenile stage can lead to variable patterns of population replenishment, which have the potential to influence the effectiveness of marine reserves. We measured spatial and temporal variability in larval supply and recruitment of fishes to coral reefs of different protection levels and tested whether protection level influenced the relationship between supply and recruitment. We sampled pre-settlement larvae and newly settled recruits from four reefs (two reserves and two non-reserves) in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, USA. Replicate point measures of larval supply over 14 months and 17 monthly measurements of recruitment varied significantly among months and sites. Sites with the same protection level had significantly different patterns of larval supply as well as larval and recruit diversity, but recruitment magnitude differed only by protection level, where densities were greater at reserves. Differences in larval supply among sites included two particularly large peaks in larval abundance at one site, possibly associated with the observed passage of small-scale oceanographic features. To examine whether relationships between larval supply and recruitment varied by protection level, we selected one species that was present in both the light trap samples and the monthly recruitment surveys. Recruitment of the bicolor damselfish Stegastes partitus was significantly and positively related to larval supply at three of the four sites thus, protection level did not influence this linkage. Since local variability among sites can lead to spatial differences in population replenishment, characterization of larval supply and recruitment to potential marine reserve sites may help to identify optimal locations in a region and contribute to more effective reserve design.

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