Mangroves as Fish Habitat

A Preliminary Assessment of Caribbean Reef Fish Abundance in Relation to Mangrove Forest Area (Extended Abstract)

Joseph E. Serafy, Geoffrey S. Shideler, and Rafael J. Araújo


Scientists have long sought to understand the contribution of mangrove forests to offshore systems, especially the movement of fishes from vegetated shallows to coral reefs (Parrish 1989). Typically, it is on coral reefs that fishing pressure is most intense (Stallings 2009). Previous studies focusing on mangrove-utilizing Caribbean fishes that migrate offshore with ontogeny have been restricted in spatiotemporal extent (e.g., Nagelkerken et al. 2002), and methodological and other differences among these research efforts have hindered quantitative, interstudy comparisons. Moreover, these studies did not directly account for (i.e., incorporate in their data analyses) the potentially confounding influence of human activity (i.e., fishing and/ or habitat degradation) when examining for relationships linking mangrove presence or area to fish abundance on reefs. As a result, it remains unclear whether island-scale observations consistent with mangrove-mediated augmentation of fishes on coral reefs are also evident at the scale of the greater Caribbean region. Human influence on large, high–trophic level Caribbean fishes appears strong (Stallings 2009); therefore, it is important to account for this influence when examining for a mangrove-driven fish subsidy effect at the regional scale.