Biology Faculty Articles


Evaluating the use of roving diver and transect surveys to assess the coral reef fish assemblage off southeastern Hispaniola

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Coral Reefs


Fish assemblages, Survey methods, Hispaniola, Dominican Republic, Conservation, Coral reefs







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The relatively little-studied fish fauna off southeastern Hispaniola was rapidly assessed using a combination of visual survey techniques including transects and roving diver surveys. It was found that when combined, both methods provided a more complete overall species assessment than either method was able to provide in isolation. Being able to conduct rapid species assessments is becoming increasingly more important as a conservation tool. Data on species composition, sighting frequency, and abundance of all fishes were collected using both methods. Abundance was recorded in four logarithmic-based categories (roving diver method) while the number of fishes were counted within 40-m2 transects (transect method). Both methods were similar in recording the most abundant species, while a greater number of rare species (especially fishery-targeted species) were recorded with the roving diver method. The most abundant groupers were Cephalopholis cruentata and C. fulva. The most abundant parrotfishes were Scarus taeniopterus, Sparisoma aurofrenatum, and Scarus iserti. The most conspicuous differences between fishes off southeastern Hispaniola and elsewhere in the tropical western Atlantic were the low abundance and smaller size of harvested species such as groupers, snappers (Fam. Lutjanidae), and grunts (Fam. Haemulidae). With the roving diver method, more time could be spent surveying (instead of placing transect lines), resulting in a greater number of species being recorded. Additionally, well-trained volunteers can adopt the roving diver method as part of their regular diving program. Transect surveys were able to provide information such as length (biomass) and actual density measures that were not recorded in roving diver surveys. Thus, these methods were complementary and should be used in conjunction when conducting rapid assessments of fish assemblages, especially to detect the effects of overfishing.

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