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Scripps College

Publication Date

Fall 2018

Program Name

Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation


Coral reefs are the most diverse marine ecosystem and the largest biogenic structure on Earth. They serve as shelter for many reef fishes and are a food source for resident and visiting fish species. In the tropics, coral reefs are often in close proximity to seagrass beds and the two contiguous marine habitats are not only highly interconnected but also highly understudied. The seagrass-coral reef continuum offers a wide array of services to human society as well as to various life stages of reef fishes resulting in diel, temporal, or yearly migrations of fish between the two habitats. Tropical reef fish diversity, abundance, and evenness were measured in both habitats in the morning and afternoon to determine if any significant differences in results between habitats or times of day could be observed. Underwater video recordings were taken of 15 m transects in the seagrass bed and coral reef at two sites, one sheltered and one more exposed, off Isla Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro, Panama. The recordings were used in calculating fish diversity, abundance, and evenness and in surveying the benthic composition of the coral reef. Sixteen transects were recorded in each habitat at each time of day at each site and a total of 3587 fish were observed representing 14 different families and 32 different species. Site 1 had low live coral coverage and was composed of mainly hard open substrate while Site 2 was composed mainly of macroalgae and live coral. Ultimately, no significant differences were found between fish abundance or evenness however, significant differences were found in fish diversity between the seagrass bed and coral reef (P<0.001, df=3493) as well as between the morning and the afternoon (P<0.001, df=3454). Based on these results, it can be concluded that habitat and time of day play significant roles in fish diversity and even though fish abundance and evenness were not significantly different, they generally aligned with conclusions made in previous studies.


Aquaculture and Fisheries | Biodiversity | Latin American Studies | Marine Biology | Zoology


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