Structurally complex mangrove roots are thought to provide foraging habitat, predation refugia, and typhoon protection for resident fish, shrimp, and crabs. The spatially compact nature of Micronesian mangroves results in model ecosystems to test these ideas. Tidal creek nekton assemblages were compared among mangrove forests impacted by Typhoon Sudal and differing in stand structure. Structurally complex Rhizophora spp. stands were predicted to support higher densities and different communities of nekton and to provide greater protection from typhoons compared to less complex Sonneratia alba/Bruguiera gymnorrhiza stands. Lift net data revealed that structural complexity did not support greater nekton densities, but did support significantly different nekton assemblages. The cardinalfish Apogon ceramensis and goby Oxyurichthys lonchotus had significantly higher densities in S. alba/B. gymnorrhiza mangrove creeks, whereas the silverside Atherinomorus lacunosus and diogenid crabs had significantly higher densities in Rhizophora spp. creeks. Similar nekton densities 17 and 4 months after the typhoon in Rhizophora spp. creeks provided indirect evidence that structural complexity increased protection for resident nekton from disturbances. Findings indicate that studies of structural complexity and nekton densities may be better served when individual species are compared and that diverse mangrove tree assemblages will support diverse nekton assemblages that may be more resilient to disturbance.
- Mangrove tidal creeks
- Structural complexity