To present an updated database of fish species recorded on south‐western Atlantic reef environments and to explore the ecological drivers of the structure, the latitudinal gradient of biodiversity and the centre of endemism in this peripheral province.
South‐western Atlantic (SWA): Brazilian and Argentinian Provinces.
A database composed of 733 fish species along 23 locations in the SWA (00°55′ N to 43°00′ S) was compiled based on primary data, literature and museum records. Cluster and beta diversity analyses were carried out to evaluate faunal overlaps among locations and subprovinces. “Target‐area‐distance effect” and “stepping stones dispersal” hypotheses for assemblage composition were tested through Mantel tests. Relationships between the distribution patterns and ecological traits of reef fish species were investigated through generalized linear mixed‐effect models.
Out of the 733 fish species, 405 are SWA resident reef fishes, of which 111 (27%) are endemics and 78 are threatened with extinction. Cluster analysis detected six subprovinces in the SWA structured following the target‐area‐distance model, and with no evidence for a latitudinal gradient in diversity. The greatest overall richness and endemic species richness were found in the east–south‐eastern region. Depth range, habitat use and body size were the main drivers of SWA reef fish assemblage structure.
The Brazilian and Argentinian coasts constitute different provinces structured by oceanographic barriers and environmental filters. Similarities among oceanic islands indicate connectivity driven by stochastic and ecological factors. Species richness and endemism indicate that peripheral provinces may also bear centres of origin and biodiversity, patterns driven by parapatric/ecological speciation and the overlap between tropical and subtropical reef fish species. Ecological drivers of reef fish distribution, such as habitat specialization and body size, support hypotheses of speciation in the periphery. New approaches for spatial planning, marine protected areas and off‐reserve marine management are essential for the conservation and sustainability of SWA reef fishes.
The genus Tubastraea, with natural occurrence in the Pacific Ocean, was reported for the first time in Brazil along the coast of Rio de Janeiro. Since then it has also been reported in other sites along the south and southeast Brazilian coasts in oil platforms and rocky shores. We describe for the first time the occurrence of Tubastraea tagusensis and T. coccinea in the Northeastern coast of Brazil. The corals were found in the state of Bahia, sitting on shipwrecks, marina jetties as well as occupying space on a coral reef.
In an increasingly anthropic world, humans have profound impacts on the distribution and behaviour of marine fishes. The increased human presence has modified fishes’ antipredator behavioural responses, and consequently flight decisions, as a function of their changed perceptions of risk. Understanding how fish react to human presence can help identify the most vulnerable functional groups/species and estimate impacts caused by human disturbance. Shoal and body size are known to influence fish flight initiation distance (FID; the distance between the predator and prey when the prey begins to escape); however, few studies attempt to test the moderators of these relationships. Here, we present a comprehensive meta‐analysis evaluating FID of fish in response to human presence. Specifically, we investigated six candidate moderators that could influence the relationship between FID with shoal and body size. Our results showed that individual fish size was strongly and positively correlated with FID and the most important moderator that explained the variance in individual body size‐FID relationship was shoaling behaviour. However, and somehow surprisingly, we detected no significant relationship between shoal size and FID. We discuss how these results can inform the development of fish conservation strategies and ultimately assist in the management of marine protected areas.
Non-lethal human disturbances are often drivers of change in animal population and community structure. To gauge their severity, short-term behaviour (e.g. avoidance and habituation) has been argued to be a sensitive measure. However, many of these behavioural changes may occur only if disturbance-free habitat is readily accessible. In coral-reef fish, we tested whether human disturbances from intensive (i.e. loud music, swimming, snorkelling, splashing and fish feeding by numerous visitors) tourist visitations resulted in assemblage structure shifts led by shortterm behaviour. We monitored fish assemblage before, during and after tourist visitations to monitor changes associated with behaviour. Additionally, we monitored two adjacent reefs not visited by tourists because of difficult approach by boat. We posited that if short-term benefits of relocating to disturbance-free habitat outweigh the costs of tolerating disturbances, fish assemblage structure should shift along with tourist visitation levels. By contrast, if sensitive species are unable or unwilling to relocate, we predicted greater levels of assemblage heterogeneity between the visited and control reefs. Our results showed that in situ human visitations led to significant shifts in assemblage structure, resulting from short-term behavioural changes. Additionally, we showed significant between-reefs differences, whereby control reefs were characterised by higher species richness, larger fish sizes and variations in relative trophic guild prevalence. Our results suggest that short-term relocations to adjacent disturbance-free reefs may not mitigate the effects of human disturbances.
Deeper reefs are often considered to be less susceptible to local and global disturbances, such as overfishing, pollution and climate change, compared to shallow reefs and therefore could act as refugia for shallow water species. Hence, the interest on deeper reefs has happened at a time when shallow reefs are undergoing unprecedented changes. Here we investigated the hypothesis that fish community differed from shallow to deeper reefs due to factors apart from habitat structure and quality and therefore discuss for the first-time insights of a “deep refuge hypothesis” from Brazilian reefs. We collected data on fish community, benthic community and physiological conditions of two coral species on shallow (< 6 m) and deep reefs (> 25 m). No significant difference on substratum composition was observed comparing sites and depths. Additionally, physiological data on corals also showed similar oxidative status and growth conditions when comparing the two-coral species in shallow and deep reefs. Conversely, our study demonstrated strong differences on reef fish communities in terms of abundance, species richness, trophic groups, size classes and groups of interest when comparing shallow and deeper reefs. Fish abundance was 2-fold higher and species richness was up to 70% higher on deeper reefs. Also, a significant difference was observed comparing trophic groups of reef fish. Macrocarnivore, Mobile invertebrate feeders, Planktivores, Sessile Invertebrates Feeders and Roving Herbivores were more abundant on deeper reefs. On the other hand, Territorialist Herbivores almost exclusively dominated shallow reefs. Strong differences were also observed comparing the abundance of reef fish groups of interest and their respective size classes between shallow and deeper reefs. Ornamental, Great Herbivores and Groupers showed clear differences, with higher abundances being observed in deeper reefs. Considering size classes, larger individuals (> 15 cm) of Great Herbivores, Groupers and Snapper were uniquely recorded at deeper reefs. Additionally, individuals with > 30 cm were recorded almost exclusively on deeper reefs for all the analyzed groups of interest. Our findings suggest that fishing pressure on the target species may be attenuated on deeper reefs, and these regions may therefore be considered as areas of refuge from shallow water impacts. Therefore, the likely potential for deeper reefs protect species from natural or anthropogenic disturbances increases the attention of marine conservation planning and resource management on including deeper reefs in protected areas.
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