Effects of habitat and life history characteristics on marine reserve effectiveness
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Effects of habitat and life history characteristics on marine reserve effectiveness

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    "A network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in West Hawai'i has been shown to vary in its effectiveness to replenish depleted aquarium fish stocks. To determine the abundance and distribution of habitat needed to better design and manage MPAs along West Hawai'i, underwater video transects, existing remote sensing data and a benthic classification scheme were used to interpret and map reef habitats at a spatial scale of 10-100's m (mesohabitats). A stratified monitoring effort was carried out to quantify ontogenetic habitat use by the primary aquarium reef fish, yellow tang (Zebrasoma flavescens) in existing MPAs. Rugosity, microhabitat features (1-10m scale), abundance and size of fish were quantified in a total of 115 circular plots. In addition, mesohabitat features (10-100m scale) were assessed in order to determine accuracy of mapping efforts. Visual categorization and mapping of habitat was accurate and consistent with the habitats quantified on a microhabitat scale. Patterns of abundance of reef fish and the distribution of benthic substrates were distributed along distinct habitat types at each site. Reef morphology and the distribution of coral species among sites was strongly associated with wave exposure. Ontogenetic shifts in habitat use by reef fish were significant at all study sites. Recruits and juveniles of the yellow tang showed strong patterns of mesohabitat and microhabitat selection among sites by associating with deep aggregate coral rich areas and patches of finger and cauliflower coral while the distribution and abundance of adults varied greatly within and among sites. The development of the meso-scale habitat map made it possible to quantify undocumented patterns of ontogenetic habitat use and in turn provide some insight into the processes driving the population dynamics of reef fish and effective management of MPAs".
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