HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

David W. Kerstetter

Second Advisor

Neil Hammerschlag

Third Advisor

James D. Thomas


Inshore tropical and subtropical estuaries harbor a relatively high abundance and diversity of organisms. Specifically within estuaries, mangrove and seagrass habitats provide shelter and food for a plethora of organisms, through some or all their life histories. Given the biological connection between offshore coral reefs and coastal estuaries, there is a critical need to understand the underlying processes that determine distribution and abundance patterns within mangrove-seagrass habitats. The predatory fish assemblage within the mangrove and seagrass beds of Biscayne Bay, Florida (USA), was examined over 24-hr. time periods along a distance and habitat gradient from the mangrove edge and nearshore environment (0–300 m) to farshore (301–700 m) seagrass beds. This thesis also investigated the occurrence, distribution and timing of reef fish movement between offshore coral reef habitat and inshore seagrass beds over 24-hr periods. Results indicate that fish predators differed over both the sampling period and with distance from mangrove edge. The results also demonstrated reef fishes move into Biscayne Bay at dusk and exit at dawn by utilizing Broad Creek Channel as a passageway. This work supports the idea of diel migration of selected reef fishes to inshore seagrass beds and highlights the importance of connective channels between habitats. The results suggest that the degradation or loss of seagrass habitat could differentially impact the life-history stages of reef fish species.

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