Describing the spatial patterns of benthic coastal habitats and investigating how those patterns affect the ecology of inhabiting species is a main objective of seascape ecology.
This study applies a multiscale seascape approach to investigate the habitat preferences of juvenile and adult individuals of dusky grouper in the Cabrera Archipelago National Park (Spain, W Mediterranean Sea).
The obtained results show the relevance of describing the habitat at wider spatial scales than the fine-scale.
The authors suggest that managers should consider, among other factors, the structure of the habitats and the topographic characteristics. According to the results of the study, a proper design of a marine reserve in the Mediterranean for protecting dusky grouper populations should protect: i) rocky habitats in the depth range of the species (from the surface to 50 m in the geographic area of this study), ii) extensive areas of shallow rocky bottoms ensuring representative depths of maximum juvenile density, with low-intermediate coastal exposures and with high complexity derived from the accumulation of small and medium rocky boulders, iii) areas of cliffs down to the depth of maximum adult density with intermediate slopes, with important rocky falls providing a high level of habitat complexity from big size boulders, surrounded by sea beds of fragmented habitats. It is underlined that due to the gradual evolution on habitat requirements along the dusky grouper ontogenetic development, an appropriate marine reserve design would require good connectivity among the different areas specified before.
Alvarez-Berasategui et al. (2018) Multiscale seascape habitat of necto-benthic littoral species, application to the study of the dusky grouper habitat shift throughout ontogeny. Marine Environmental Research doi: 10.1016/j.marenvres.2018.09.002