To test the effects of connectivity on fish diversity in isolated reef patches we deployed pairs of artificial reefs (AR) at constant distances (12 and 25 m) from a large continuous reef and added series of small ARs to half of them. These small reefs served as stepping-stones to increase fish movement between the large ARs and the continuous reef. Species gain and loss curves were compared to obtain deeper understanding of the underlying mechanisms in relation to the theory of island biogeography. We found that AR without stepping-stones maintained up to 57-fold more individuals than ARs with stepping-stones during mass recruitment events that were dominated by the family Apogonidae. However, in-between these mass recruitment events the overall impact of the stepping-stones on richness and abundance was small. By contrast, increasing distance from the continuous reef from 12 to 25 m increased fish richness, although this was confounded with time since AR deployment. Increase in richness with distance was predominantly caused by elevated species gain. Our results suggest that fish assemblages respond in distinct ways to two types of isolation: (1) Increased richness with distance from a continuous reef, and (2) increased fluctuation in abundance with decreased connectivity. The latter may be the outcome of accumulation and then abrupt emigrations of fishes from isolated reefs. This study confirms that the spatial setting of reef patches in relation to larger or continuous reefs alters fish assemblages, which may be important for planning AR deployments that maximizes diversity.
- Artificial reef
- Coral reef
- Fish assemblages
- Red Sea
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Nature and Landscape Conservation