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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2011

Scale-dependent patterns of variability of a grazing parrotfish (Leptoscarus vaigiensis) in a tropical seagrass-dominated seascape

Gullstrom, Martin; Berkstrom, Charlotte; Ohman, Marcus C.; Bodin, Maria; Dahlberg, Mattis


Although herbivorous fish form critical linkages between primary producers and higher trophic levels, the major factors regulating their spatial structure in seagrass systems remain poorly understood. The present study examined the parrotfish Leptoscarus vaigiensis in seagrass meadows of a tropical embayment in the western Indian Ocean. Stomach content analysis and direct field observations showed that L. vaigiensis is an efficient grazer, feeding almost exclusively on seagrass leaves. Seagrass shoot density was highly correlated to all density variables (total, juvenile and subadult) and juvenile biomass of L. vaigiensis, while subadult biomass was predicted by distance to neighbouring coral habitat. Moreover, density and biomass of predatory fish (piscivores) were predicted by seagrass canopy height and the distribution patterns of predators followed those of L. vaigiensis. Hence, factors at local (seagrass structural complexity and feeding mode) and landscape scale levels (seascape context and distribution of piscivores) likely mutually structure herbivorous fish communities. The findings underscore the importance of incorporating multiple scale-dependent factors when managing coastal seagrass ecosystems and their associated key species.

Published in

Marine Biology
2011, Volume: 158, number: 7, pages: 1483-1495
Publisher: SPRINGER

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