Fish assemblages on artificial and natural reefs in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, USA
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Visual censusing was used to characterize fish assemblages on artificial and natural reefs located within the boundaries of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Emphasis was placed on determining spatial and temporal patterns in habitat utilization by fishes on an offshore artificial reef(Mobil Platform HI-A389A). Overall, 43 species were observed during diurnal surveys in the upper 24 m of the artificial reef. Midwater pelagic fishes (i.e., carangids and scombrids) accounted for over 50% of all taxa enumerated on the artificial reef; however, these taxa were transient members of the assemblage and were observed infrequently. Labrids, pomacentrids, and serranids were the dominant reef-dependent taxa. Distinct trends in vertical, diel, and seasonal abundances were observed for juvenile and adult fishes. Of the three designated depth zones (upper 1.5-9.0, middle 9.0-16,5; lower 16.5-24.0 m), abundance and species diversity were lowest in the upper zone. Nocturnal counts were characterized by a marked reduction or complete absence of most species, due in part to twilight cover-seeking and movement activities. Seasonal variation in community composition and species abundance (May versus September) was primarily due to recruitment of juveniles (0-age fishes) to the artificial reef in late summer. Increases in total fish abundance (all taxa combined) coincided with both increasing habitat rugosity and degree of fouling. Species richness on natural coral reefs in the FGBNMS was higher than on the artificial reef. Unlike the artificial reef, fish assemblages on the natural reefs were dominated by a single family (Pomacentridae) which accounted for over 50% of all individuals observed.