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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2012

Exploring 'knowns' and 'unknowns' in tropical seascape connectivity with insights from East African coral reefs

Berkstrom, Charlotte; Gullstrom, Martin; Lindborg, Regina; Mwandya, Augustine W.; Yahya, Saleh A. S.; Kautsky, Nils; Nystrom, Magnus


Applying a broader landscape perspective to understand spatio-temporal changes in local populations and communities has been increasingly used in terrestrial systems to study effects of human impact and land use change. With today's major declines in fishery stocks and rapid degradation of natural coastal habitats, the understanding of habitat configuration and connectivity over relevant temporal and spatial scales is critical for conservation and fisheries management of the seascape. Coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves are key-components of the tropical seascape. The spatial distribution of these habitat types may have strong influences on cross-habitat migration and connectivity patterns among organisms. However, the consequences of seascape fragmentation and ecological connectivity are largely unknown. Here, we review the literature to provide an overview of current knowledge with regards to connectivity and food-web interactions within the tropical seascape. We show that information on fish acting as mobile links and being part of nutrient transfer and trophic interactions is scarce. We continue by making an in-depth analysis of the seascape around Zanzibar (Eastern Africa) to fill some of the knowledge gaps identified by the literature survey. Our analysis shows that (i) fifty percent of all fish species found within the Zanzibar seascape use two or multiple habitat types, (ii) eighteen percent of all coral reef-associated fish species use mangrove and seagrass beds as juvenile habitat, and (iii) macrocarnivores and herbivores are highly represented among those coral reef fish species that use mangrove and seagrass beds as juvenile habitat. We argue that understanding the inter-linkages within and between habitat types is essential for successful management of the tropical seascape. (c) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved,


trophic interactions; fish; tropical; coral reef; seagrass; mangrove

Published in

Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
2012, Volume: 107, pages: 1-21

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