Date of Award

8-2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Environmental Science and Biology

Abstract

The government of the Bahamas is considering making parts of San Salvador a National Marine Park. This study was conducted to assess the significance of Pigeon Creek, a shallow tidal lagoon, as a nursery for coral reef fishes. The perimeter of Pigeon Creek is lined with mangrove and limestone bedrock. Depending on location in the Creek, the bottom is sand or seagrass and ranges in depth from shallow intertidal sand flats to deeper, tide-scoured channels with a maximum depth of 3 m. In June 2006 and January 2007, fish were counted and their reproductive status Juvenile or adult) was recorded by sampling a total of 112, 50-m transects along the perimeter of the lagoon. Excluding silversides (Atherinidae, 52% of the fish counted), of the remaining fish counted, six families each comprised >1% of the total abundance (parrotfishes, 35.3%; snappers, 23.9%; grunts, 21.0%; mojarras, 8.5%; damselfishes, 6.1%; wrasses, 2.4%). There were few differences in effort-adjusted counts among habitats (mangrove, bedrock, mixed), sections (North, Middle, and Southwest) and seasons (summer 2006 and winter 2007). Snappers, grunts and parrotfishes are important food fishes and significant families in terms of reef ecology around San Salvador. Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) which covered 68% of the perimeter of Pigeon Creek, and where 62% of the fish were counted, was an important habitat for snappers (Lutjanidae) and grunts (Haemulidae) but bedrock was the most important habitat for parrotfishes (Scaridae). The Southwest section of Pigeon Creek was important for snappers, grunts and parrotfishes, the North section for grunts and parrotfishes, and the Middle section for snappers. Only six juvenile Nassau grouper were counted in perimeter habitats, but 32 were counted during 33 minutes of drift sampling in the channel of the Southwest section of Pigeon Creek. Among the non­ silverside fish counted, 91.2% were juveniles. Although not part of this study, many juvenile Queen conch and juvenile Caribbean spiny lobster also were observed. These results suggest that Pigeon Creek is an important nursery for the coral reefs surrounding San Salvador, and should be protected from any disturbance caused by development or increased use of the area.

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