Biggs, C.R.

Multi-scale habitat occupancy of invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans) in coral reef environments of Roatan, Honduras

The Indo-Pacific lionfish species [Pterois volitans (Linnaeus, 1758) and P. miles (Bennett, 1828): Family Scorpaenidae] are the first nonnative marine fishes to establish in the Western North Atlantic and Caribbean Sea. Despite the continued documentation of its range expansion and highly publicized invasion (including public-driven removal efforts) there remains a paucity of basic information on lionfish ecology. This knowledge gap limits effective long-term management. In this study we conducted a multi-scale investigation of habitat occupancy of a newly established population of lionfish in Roatan, Honduras. Based on field surveys and citizen sightings in Roatan Marine Park we found that lionfish occurred more frequently on aggregate coral reef habitats (54% of sightings) compared to patch reef habitats (30%) and sea grass lagoons (16%). In general, these aggregate and patch reef habitats contained adults (mean total length =118.9 mm and 114.7mm, respectively) whereas sea grass habitats contained juveniles (mean total length=89.5 mm). At the micro-habitat scale lionfish occupied areas dominated by hard coral and overhanging structure; the same microhabitats containing native fishes of concern – grouper (Nassau grouper, Epinephelus striatus; yellow fin grouper, Mycteroperca venenosa) and snapper (dog snapper, Lutjanus jocu; mutton snapper, Lutjanus analis). Results from this study contribute information on basic habitat requirements of lionfish and inform current management removal efforts focused on containing spread and mitigating their impacts on native species

Data type
Scientific article
Research and monitoring