Marine vegetated habitats such as seagrass, mangroves, and macroalgae are common along tropical coastlines globally and provide habitats for a diversity of fishes, including juvenile fish and species found on coral reefs. Understanding the use of these habitats by different fish species and life stages is fundamental to spatial planning, fisheries management, and conservation. While previous studies have focused on the habitat potential of seagrass, macroalgae, or mangroves for coral reef fish independently, it is important to consider their combined roles, as tropical seascapes are often mosaics of such habitats. In this study, we evaluated habitat associations across life stages for fish species in coral reefs, seagrasses, macroalgae, and mangroves in Saudi Arabia’s central Red Sea. Through in situ visual surveys, we documented 36% of local coral reef fish species in one or more vegetated habitats, with the fraction of coral reef species utilizing macroalgae or seagrass much greater than that of mangroves (29%, 18%, and 6%, respectively). Mangroves hosted mainly juvenile fish (83% of observed population) and macroalgae hosted the largest proportion of herbivores (39% of observed population), suggesting that each environment offers different combinations of resources (food and shelter), and a mix of these habitats could support biological connectivity across a seascape. Species targeted by local fisheries made up 37% of the species documented in vegetated habitats. The use of multiple habitat types by juvenile and commercially important fishes in the Red Sea underscores the need for a holistic approach to habitat protection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science