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Connectivity, Recruitment Variation, and the Structure of Reef Fish Communities

"Coral reefs contain the most speciose communities of fishes on this planet, so it is appropriate to use these to explore how fish species are organized into communities. While descriptive data suggest that the diverse communities of fish on coral reefs are equilibrial assemblages of species, all finely adapted to specific and unique ecological roles, these are highly dynamic, non-equilibrial assemblages with structure driven more by patterns of recruitment and loss of individual fishes, than by patterns of resource allocation among differently adapted phenotypes. As a consequence, local assemblages differ in structure, and structure wanders through time. Individual fish are confronted by different mixes of species in different times and places. The recruitment process that drives these dynamics is complex, being governed by several mechanisms, and local populations receive some portion of their recruitment from distant sources. Information on this connectivity among local populations is critically important for management which is based increasingly on use of marine protected areas (no-take zones) both to conserve, and to provide sustainable fisheries. At present, however, we do not know the spatial scale or the extent of this connectivity, and this critical knowledge gap impedes both management, and fundamental understanding."
Peter F. Sale
University of Windsor
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