Short Communication

Reef fishes recruited at midwater coral nurseries consume biofouling and reduce cleaning time in Seychelles, Indian Ocean

Published in: African Journal of Marine Science
Volume 37, issue 3, 2015 , pages: 421–426
DOI: 10.2989/1814232X.2015.1078259
Author(s): S Frias-TorresNature Seychelles, Republic of Seychelles, H GoehlichNature Seychelles, Republic of Seychelles, C ReveretNature Seychelles, Republic of Seychelles, PH Montoya-MayaNature Seychelles, Republic of Seychelles

Abstract

In coral reef restoration, coral gardening involves rearing coral fragments in underwater nurseries prior to transplantation. These nurseries become fish-aggregating devices and attract biofouling. We hypothesised that: (1) the presence of corals at a nursery is critical to recruit fish assemblages and (2) the recruited fish assemblages control biofouling, reducing person-hours invested in nursery cleaning. Three midwater coral nurseries were deployed at 8 m depth for 27 months within the marine protected area of Cousin Island Special Reserve, Seychelles, Indian Ocean. Each nursery consisted of a 6 m×6 m PVC pipe frame, layered with a recycled 5.5-cm-mesh tuna net. Human cleaning effort was calculated based on daily dive logs. Nursery-associated fish assemblages and behaviour were video-recorded prior to harvesting corals after a 20-month growth period and seven months post-coral harvesting. The density (ind. m–2) of blue-yellow damselfish Pomacentrus caeruleus was 12–16 times higher when corals were present than when corals were absent at the nurseries. Fish assemblages recruited into the nurseries included three trophic levels, from herbivores to omnivores, in six families: Ephippidae, Pomacentridae, Labridae (Scarinae), Gobiidae, Siganidae and Monacanthidae. Higher abundance of large fish (total number of individuals) resulted in 2.75 times less person-hours spent in nursery cleaning. These results have important implications for cost-effective coral reef restoration.

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