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posted on 16.02.2018, 12:37 by Jeremiah G. Plass-Johnson, Mirta Teichberg, Vanessa N. Bednarz, Astrid Gärdes, Jasmin P. Heiden, Muhammad Lukman, Sara Miñarro, Hauke Kegler, Laura Weiand, Christian Wild, Hauke Reuter, Sebastian C. A. Ferse

The Spermonde Archipelago is a complex of ~70 mostly populated islands off Southwest Sulawesi, Indonesia, in the center of the Coral Triangle. The reefs in this area are exposed to a high level of anthropogenic disturbances. Previous studies have shown that variation in the benthos is strongly linked to water quality and distance from the mainland. However, little is known about the fish assemblages of the region and if their community structure also follows a relationship with benthic structure and distance from shore. In this study, we used eight islands of the archipelago, varying in distance from 1 to 55 km relative to the mainland, and 3 years of surveys, to describe benthic and fish assemblages and to examine the spatial and temporal influence of benthic composition on the structure of the fish assemblages. Cluster analysis indicated that distinct groups of fish were associated with distance, while few species were present across the entire range of sites. Relating fish communities to benthic composition using a multivariate generalized linear model confirmed that fish groups relate to structural complexity (rugosity) or differing benthic groups; either algae, reef builders (coral and crustose coralline algae) or invertebrates and rubble. From these relationships we can identify sets of fish species that may be lost given continued degradation of the Spermonde reefs. Lastly, the incorporation of water quality, benthic and fish indices indicates that local coral reefs responded positively after an acute disturbance in 2013 with increases in reef builders and fish diversity over relatively short (1 year) time frames. This study contributes an important, missing component (fish community structure) to the growing literature on the Spermonde Archipelago, a system that features environmental pressures common in the greater Southeast Asian region.