We assessed ichthyofaunal diversity within offshore mangrove cays in Belize during three, 2-wk surveys (2003, 2004, 2005). Nine sampling gears were deployed in pre-defined micro-habitats: fringe, transition, dwarf red mangrove, internal creeks, ponds, and sinkholes. Water quality data (temperature, salinity, DO) were taken during most collections. A total of 2586 gear sets was completed and 8131 individuals collected, comprising 75 taxa. Minnow trap data from the various micro-habitats tested indicates some overlap in assemblages. Significant differences in water quality were also noted, with the fringe representing the most benign and the sink-hole the most harsh microhabitats, respectively. We also conducted extensive visual surveys around the fringe at a number of cays, tallying an additional 67 taxa. The fringe is the most diverse (128 taxa) and sinkhole least (12 species). An overall total of 142 taxa from 55 families has therefore been documented from the cays, and all but eight were found on Twin Cays alone. This figure is among the highest reported for oceanic mangroves in this biogeographic realm. Our comprehensive approach with a variety of gear-types in a wide range of micro-habitats, combined with visual observation, lends credence to the conclusion that most ichthyological species inventories for the mangal are commonly underestimates.
Additional publication details
An assessment of ichthyofaunal assemblages within the mangal of the Belize offshore cays
Bulletin of Marine Science
University of Miami - Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science