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Trophic signature of coral reef fish assemblages: Towards a potential indicator of ecosystem disturbance

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 July 2005

Yves-Marie Bozec
Département Halieutique UPR Mesh, Agrocampus Rennes, 65 rue de St-Brieuc, CS 84215, 35042 Rennes Cedex, France UR-CoRéUs, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), Université de Perpignan, 66860 Perpignan Cedex, France
Michel Kulbicki
UR-CoRéUs, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), Université de Perpignan, 66860 Perpignan Cedex, France
Emmanuel Chassot
Département Halieutique UPR Mesh, Agrocampus Rennes, 65 rue de St-Brieuc, CS 84215, 35042 Rennes Cedex, France
Didier Gascuel
Département Halieutique UPR Mesh, Agrocampus Rennes, 65 rue de St-Brieuc, CS 84215, 35042 Rennes Cedex, France
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Face to the increasing anthropogenic disturbances that affect coral reef ecosystems, it becomes urgent to define appropriate ecological indicators for monitoring purposes. One useful approach is to search for a simplified description of the structure of biological communities that are highly diverse and complex on coral reefs. To this end, we propose to represent the trophic structure of coral reef fish assemblages by using fractional trophic levels assigned to each fish species. Fish abundance trophic spectra (i.e., the distributions of fish abundance per trophic level) were established for the fringing reefs of two bays located in the city of Nouméa (New Caledonia). The comparison of these trophic spectra revealed a similar trophic structure in the two bays, in spite of contrasted levels of fish abundance due to habitat damages. The embayment degree was characterized by changes in the fish trophic structure, reflecting a decreasing influence of urban and industrial wastes discharged in the bottom of the bays. This case of study shows the interest of using fractional trophic levels for the description of highly diverse biological communities. The trophic level-based approach offers new prospects in the search for ecological indicators, by characterizing the structure of biological communities by trophic signatures which testify to the disturbance level affecting their environment.

Research Article
© EDP Sciences, IFREMER, IRD, 2005

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