Abundance and diversity of fluorescent anemone species across reef habitats off the coast of Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean

Marine anemones influence oceanic food webs, partake in symbiotic relationships with many marine phyla, and can prove detrimental to coral reef ecosystems in excess. Few descriptive studies have been conducted on anemone communities. The present study examined anemone abundance and diversity using fluorescence across reef habitats in a coral reef ecosystem for the first time on Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean. A total of 110 fluorescent anemones belonging to at least 9 species were documented. Anemones exhibited species-specific ranges in one or multiple reef habitats including the reef flat (2-6 m depth), reef crest (6-9 m depth), and reef slope (9-15 m depth). Four possibly unidentified species were documented. Fluorescent anemone abundance varied significantly between reef flat (5.5 ± 0.7 individuals) and reef crest (27.5 ± 6.4 individuals) habitats. Although fluorescent anemone diversity was highest on the reef flat and lowest on the reef slope, there was no significant difference among the reef habitats. The study contributed to current knowledge on fluorescent anemone ecology by documenting species habitat ranges. It suggested that among species and as a whole, anemones are habitatspecific. The results also provided habitat ranges for obligate anemone symbionts. The study may be valuable for a variety of scientific fields. Descriptive studies such as the present project in Bonaire facilitate the possible discovery of new and groundbreaking species and model organisms. Tracking distribution and diversity could also inform of anemone bleaching and serve as a bioindicator of reef health and climate change ramifications.

This student research was retrieved from Physis: Journal of Marine Science XIX (Spring 2016)19: 74-84 from CIEE Bonaire.

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