Reef fish community in presence of the lionfish (Pterois volitans) in Santa Marta, Colombian Caribbean

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Rocío García-Urueña Arturo Acero P Víctor Coronado-Carrascal

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ABSTRACT

Objective. Fish species community structure and benthic organisms coverage were studied in five localities in Santa Marta where the lionfish is present. Materials and methods. Abundance of fish species, including lion fish, was established using 30 m random visual censuses and video transects; trophic guilds were established according to available references. On the other hand benthic coverage was evaluated using the software Coral Point Count (CPCe) 4.0. Results. Families with higher species numbers were Serranidae, Labridae, and Pomacentridae. Lionfish abundances were low (2.6±2.1 ind/120 m2), but in any case Pterois volitans was observed as the eleventh more abundant species, surpassing species of commercial value such as Cephalopholis cruentata. Species that were found in larger numbers (>100, Thalassoma bifasciatum, Haemulon aurolineatum, Canthigaster rostrata, Abudefduf saxatilis, Chromis cyanea, and Stegastes partitus) were mainly invertebrate eaters, planctivores, and territorial herbivores. Coral coverage showed higher coral percentages in Chengue (69.9%) and Cinto (27.4%), larger sponge percentages in Morro (32.7%); Isla Aguja and Remanso showed the larger figures for abiotic substrate (41.6 and 37%, respectively); corals, sponges, and gorgonians were the components best explaining fish community, but not for the lion fish, which inhabit all studied reef formations. Conclusions. Lion fish is ranked between the 20 more abundant species, with none commercially important species larger, hence no species may qualify as a natural control. Lion fish has as well become a relatively abundant species in Santa Marta reefs, independent of benthic coverage.

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