Coral reef environments exhibit numerous ecological interactions between different organisms. The habitat structure of a healthy coral reef is composed of many different coral species, with various fish species inhabiting the reef. Coral reef studies often focus on a large spatial scale rather than smaller local scale environments within the reef. The objective of this study was to compare fish populations associated with the microhabitat surrounding individual coral heads of two different species. The purpose of this study was to determine if there were differences in fish abundance, fish species richness, and fish diversity between two massive stony corals, Diploria strigosa and Orbicella annularis. These two corals are common on many Caribbean reefs but are morphologically different; therefore, it was hypothesized that they would show differences between their associated fish assemblages. By conducting fish count observations on both D. strigosa and O. annularis, I was able to compare means between the coral associated fish populations using statistical tests. No statistically significant differences were found between these two coral species for mean fish abundance, species richness, or diversity. One possible explanation is that the larger scale reef environment and processes may have a significant effect on local fish populations found on individual coral heads. By studying the microhabitats of coral species and the associated fish assemblages, we can gain a better understanding of fish population dynamics of coral reefs across larger ecological scales—both regionally and globally
This student research was retrieved from Physis: Journal of Marine Science XVIII (Fall 2015)19: 61-69 from CIEE Bonaire.