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Ecological aspects of coral patch reefs were studied from 1981 to 1985 in Welles Harbor, Midway Atoll. Water temperatures varied from 17??C in February to 28??C in August. Sizes of reefs studied were described by mean area (59 m2), mean volume (52 m3), vertical relief (<1 m), and inter-reef isolation (100 m). Considerable temporal change in reef size occurred due to large winter swells shifting bottom sand. Six common species accounted for 70% of all individual fish visually censused over 4 years. Overall fish assemblage composition ranged from 11 to 46 fish/10 m2, from 3 to 14 species. Numerical abundance and species richness for all fish (pooled) strongly correlated with physical reef substrate characteristics of area, volume, and vertical relief during summer. Species diversity (H') was not correlated with the substrate variables, suggesting similarity in the structure of fish communities among different sizes of patch reefs. Daily surveillance for presence of large transient taxa suggested that visits by sharks, large jacks, monk seals, sea turtles, and dolphins were infrequent. Density estimates were made for all conspicuous invertebrate megafauna during initial and final assessments. Six common taxa provided 90% of these counts; nearly half were sea urchins. Percent cover also was recorded for coral and algal species on the patch reefs. Cover by live coral was low (about 7%) and dominated by a few species. Mean algal cover ranged from 32 to 77%. Such information on ecological characteristics of reefs may aid in understanding complex ecological processes and provides an earlier reference for current ecosystem studies.
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Ecological characteristics of coral patch reefs at Midway Atoll, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands