Settlement and density of juvenile fish assemblages in natural, Zostera capricorni (Zosteraceae) and artificial seagrass beds

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Journal Article
Environmental Biology of Fishes, 2003, 66 (1), pp. 91 - 97
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Few studies have validated the use of artificial seagrass to study processes structuring faunal assemblages by comparison with natural seagrass. One metric (fish recruitment) for evaluating the use of artificial seagrass was used in the present study. Settlement and recruitment of juvenile fish was estimated in natural, Zostera capricorni Aschers, and artificial seagrass in Botany Bay, NSW, over 6 consecutive days. Tarwhine, Rhabdosargus sarba, dominated the catch from both habitats, and there was no significant difference in abundance of recruits among the habitats. This was at least partly caused by large spatial and temporal variation in abundance. Daily abundances of R. sarba recruits suggested movement between seagrass beds, but could not be confirmed without tagging individual fish. Rhabdosargus sarba settlers were less abundant than recruits, but were also patchily distributed amongst natural and artificial seagrass beds. Most other species were also found in similar abundance in the two habitats, except stripey, Microcanthus strigatus, which was more abundant in artificial seagrass. Overall, fish assemblages in natural and artificial seagrass were similar. Artificial seagrass may therefore be useful for monitoring settlement and recruitment of juvenile fishes to disturbed habitats, to predict the success of habitat remediation. However, if artificial seagrass is used to model processes occurring in natural seagrass, it is necessary to consider species-specific responses to the artificial habitat.
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