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New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research








Shallow, hard-bottom habitat constitutes approximately 30% of the coastal waters of south Florida, United States, yet it is a chronically understudied feature of the marine seascape in this region. In this study, we characterised the general biogeographic and structural features of shallow benthic hard-bottom communities in the Florida Keys, and related those to the abundance of juvenile Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus), the target of one of Florida's most economically valuable fisheries. We used rapid assessment techniques to survey more than 100 hard-bottom sites in the Florida Keys to estimate the percentage bottom coverage of vegetation (seagrass and macroalgae) and the abundance of sponges, octocorals, hard corals, and other crevice-bearing structures, as well as the abundance of juvenile lobsters. Using a multivariate statistical approach, we evaluated the relationship between habitat and size-specific juvenile lobster abundance and quantitatively verified the existence of six generally accepted biogeographic subregions. Although the types of hard-bottom shelters used by juvenile lobsters varied somewhat among these subregions, in all regions, branching-candle sponges and octocorals were under-used by lobsters, whereas loggerhead sponges, coral heads, and solution holes were over-used (i.e., used more frequently than expected based on their availability). There was also an ontogenetic transition in the shelter preference of juvenile lobsters; small juveniles tended to occupy a variety of sponges, whereas large juveniles preferred hard structures such as coral heads and solution holes. This study yields the first quantitative biogeographic description of hard-bottom communities of the Florida Keys, and confirms the suspected relationship between the structural features of hard-bottom habitat and the value of these communities as nurseries for juvenile spiny lobster.


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Original Publication Citation

Bertelsen, R. D., Butler, M. J., Herrnkind, W. F., & Hunt, J. H. (2009). Regional characterisation of hard-bottom nursery habitat for juvenile Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) using rapid assessment techniques. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 43(1), 299-312. doi:10.1080/00288330909510002


0000-0002-6052-6659 (Butler)


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