Estimates of abundance and size of three commercially exploited grunt species indicate ontogenetic changes in habitat utilization concentrate their juveniles within the lagoon of the Bay of La Parguera, Puerto Rico. Eleven biotopes, defined by four benthic structures (reef, mangrove, vegetation beds and unconsolidated sediments) and three geographic zones (inner lagoon, outer lagoon and bank shelf) were sampled randomly by visual surveys. French, bluestriped and white grunt ( Haemulon flavolineatum , Haemulon sciurus and Haemulon plumeri) were common in the bay and appeared to exhibit similar life history patterns of cross-shelf migration and habitat selection. Recently settled grunts were dispersed over vegetated and unconsolidated soft-bottom sediments of the bay. The juvenile stage occurred in highest densities in shallow lagoon biotopes among the submerged prop-roots of mangrove stands and on inshore reefs. Length data indicates that grunts migrate offshore to adult habitat via increasingly deep reefs. Indices of biotope nursery function based on standing stock estimates of juveniles identified three biotopes, all within the inner lagoon as essential habitat for juveniles of 5–10 cm length interval. This concentration of juveniles within biotopes of the lagoon could represent a bottleneck to recruitment for grunt stocks. Evidence that quantity and quality of lagoon nurseries may limit recruitment indicates that these areas represent a key component of a marine protected area designed to restore fisheries within the bay.
Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science – Elsevier
Published: Mar 1, 2009
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