Date of Award

Spring 4-24-2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Deron Burkepile

Abstract

Coral reefs are among the most productive ecosystems in the world. Yet, with their recent declines due to disease, climate change, and overfishing, restoration of these habitats is one of the main concerns for ecologists, resource managers, and government organizations. Coral reef restoration aims to promote key ecosystem processes to shift these habitats to their historical state of high coral cover, but few studies have focused on effective ways to promote resilience. In addition, little is known about the impact of restoration on the fish communities. The aim of this study is to understand how the community of herbivorous fishes is affected by the density of coral outplants inside a special protection area located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Grazing rates, number of visits and time spent foraging were compared using video footage of sites previously devoid of corals, and six months after coral restorations had occurred. Coral transplantations did not appear to attract herbivores nor increase grazing rates of fishes. Instead Sparisoma and Acanthurus fishes appear to respond to changes in the environment by modifying their grazing behavior. However, there was an observed increase in visits by Acanthurus species after transplantation for all the sites sampled within the reef. These fishes seemed to prefer low coral cover sites for grazing. This study highlights the importance of examining coral restorations impacts at the community level. Understanding how restoration influences herbivores and other guilds of reef fishes will allow individuals to not only determine if these habitats are returning to their “original” state, but provide more information on the ways these systems cope with changes in the environment.

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