Date of Award

9-2002

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biological Sciences

Abstract

The coral reef ecosystems of tropical seas provide the greatest diversity of all aquatic realms in terms of sheer numbers of species as well as microhabitats. Over the last 30 years, reef fish ecologists have attempted to eludicate processes accounting for the great biodiversity among fishes found on coral reefs. Theories and models ranging from recruitment-based stochastic nonequilibria! assemblages to models based solely on habitat structure have been proposed and debated. However, it is widely accepted that both recruitment and post-settlement processes shape an assemblage of reef fish. My study examined the reef fish assemblages of three contrasting patch coral reefs at San Salvador, Bahamas, and examined the potential role of each - reef's coral community in structuring its fish assemblage. The three reefs were found to differ in terms of coral cover and dominant coral species, but not coral species richness or diversity (H'). Significant differences were also found among fish assemblages, in terms of mean fish counts, species richness, diversity, and counts within families and feeding guilds. The patch reefs at Rice Bay consistently showed lower fish abundance and 􀀫so showed the lowest coral cover. A number of correlations were found linking fish variables with coral variables, especially at relatively impoverished Rice Bay, suggesting associations between reef fish abundance and coral habitat variables such as scleractinian and total coral cover. Canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) revealed relationships between fish species abundances and select coral variables at Rice Bay and Lindsay Reef. However, establishing strong relationships among fish community and coral community characteristics remains elusive. ii

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