Developing the knowledge base needed to sustainably manage mesopelagic resources
The success of marine management initiatives and our capability for dealing with environmental change largely depend on our understanding regarding the distribution of species and their habitat preferences. In the present study, we deployed baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVs) in a portion of Brazilian central coast (i.e., Todos os Santos Bay) to describe fish species-habitat associations along an estuary-bay-continental shelf gradient. Significant variation in the fish assemblage was found among three ecosystems, four depth classes, and eight different types of habitat, confirming that the structure and composition of fish assemblages is mediated by a set of habitat characteristics forming an ecological mosaic. The highest species richness and relative abundance were found in the mangroves and reefs. The data demonstrated that some species, such as Lutjanus jocu, Lutjanus synagris, Carangoides bartholomaei, Eucinostomus argenteus and Eucinostomus melanopterus had clear ontogenetic shifts among habitats and across ecosystems. Some species (Sphoeroides greeley, L. synagris, and Eucinostomus gula) were widespread along the ecosystem-level gradient and were observed in a number of different habitats, reflecting more generalist habitat associations. By contrast, a large number of species (54; e.g., Ptereleotris randali, Decapterus macarellus and Mugil curema) were recorded in a single habitat type, indicating they were habitat specialists. Despite this apparent habitat-related pattern, the size-mediated relationships found in many species indicate cross-migration along the ecosystem gradient. Our findings have implications for the conservation and monitoring of fish assemblages highlighting the role of the connectivity of marine habitats as a conservation priority toward to an ecosystem-based management strategy.
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