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Why do juvenile fish utilise mangrove habitats?
journal contributionposted on 2023-05-16, 13:21 authored by Laegdsgaard, P, Craig JohnsonCraig Johnson
Three hypotheses to discern the strong positive association between juvenile fish and mangrove habitat were tested with field and laboratory experiments. Artificial mangrove structure in the field attracted slightly more juvenile fish than areas without structure. Artificial structure left to accumulate fouling algae attracted four-times the total number of juvenile fish than areas without structure or areas with clean structure. Community composition of fish attracted to structure with fouling algae was different when compared with areas with no structure or clean structure; five species were attracted by structure with fouling algae whilst two species were associated with structure regardless of fouling algae. Algae were linked to increased food availability and it is suggested that this is an important selection criteria for some species. Other species were apparently attracted to structure for different reasons, and provision of shelter appears to be important. Predation pressure influenced habitat choice in small juvenile fish in laboratory experiments. In the absence of predators, small juveniles of four out of five species avoided shelter but when predators were introduced all species actively sought shelter. Large fish were apparently less vulnerable to predators and did not seek shelter when predators were added to their tank. Feeding rate was increased in the mangrove habitat for small and medium-sized fish compared with seagrass beds and mudflats indicating increased food availability or foraging efficiency within this habitat. Larger fish fed more effectively on the mudflats with an increased feeding rate in this habitat compared with adjacent habitats. The most important aspect of the mangrove habitat for small juvenile fish is the complex structure that provides maximum food availability and minimises the incidence of predation. As fish grow a shift in habitat from mangroves to mudflat is a response to changes in diet, foraging efficiency and vulnerability to predators. Â© 2001 Elsevier Science B.V.
Publication titleJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Department/SchoolSchool of Natural Sciences
PublisherElsevier Science BV
Place of publicationNetherlands