HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date

4-30-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Derek Burkholder

Second Advisor

Dr. David Kerstetter

Third Advisor

Dr. Mark Bond

Abstract

Predators often have strong top-down effects on ecosystems and are considered a priority for conservation and management. Predator activity can influence prey distribution, abundance, and foraging behaviors and are likely to influence habitat by impacting ecological and environmental characteristics as well as presence of competitor species. There are knowledge gaps of the functional diversity of fish assemblages, non-consumptive predator effects, and environmental effects on fish assemblages. With this study, effects of top marine predators, such as sharks and great barracuda, on diversity and abundance of prey communities were examined in putative low (north side of South Bimini = lagoon) and high-risk (south side of South Bimini = flat) areas around South Bimini, The Bahamas. Baited remote underwater video surveys (BRUVs) deployed in the nearshore habitat captured abundance and potential predator-prey interactions. Predator and prey abundances at each site were compared to determine potential risk affect within high and low risk environments. A general baseline of predator and prey species was established throughout six months of observation (January- June 2018). Results showed a difference in prey communities between high and low risk habitats. Teleost abundance was highest on the south side of South Bimini. There were no differences in flight behavior of prey from predator (sharks vs barracuda). Longitude, depth, temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen were significantly linked to biotic assemblages. The identification of significant factors influencing predator-prey interaction is important in understanding community composition and for future implementation of conservation and management practices pertaining to nearby mangrove and seagrass habitats.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.

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