This study aims at describing the diversity and composition of larval and juvenile fish assemblages in coastal areas of New Caledonia, southwest Pacific, and identifying the environmental factors that influence the seasonal and spatial patterns of these assemblages. A total of 97 taxa belonging to 7 orders and 26 familis were captured in three bays near Nouméa by light trapping every month between January 2002 and June 2003. The assemblages were dominated by Clupeiform larvae and juveniles (96.4% of total abundance) and followed by Perciform larvae (3%). The number of taxa per sample varied from less than five in July-August to more than ten in October-November and abundances followed the same seasonal pattern. Analyses of similarity showed significant differences in the assemblages caught in the three bays and analyses of contribution to the dissimilarity revealed that these differences were due to the most abundant families. The constant part of the relationship between environmental variables and the composition of assemblages was assessed by the partial triadic analysis STATICO, a statistical approach that takes into account the strong seasonality of the data. Rainfall, wind direction and thermal stratification of the water column were found to play a major role in the structure of the assemblages, although tidal amplitude and wind speed became important when Clupeidae and Engraulididae were excluded from the analyses. The richness, relative abundances and seasonal variations of the assemblages caught in three bays under study are close to what has been observed elsewhere in the tropics. This study shows the efficiency of the STATICO analysis for identifying the environmental factors that have a permanent effect on assemblages and sorting them out from those which act temporally or on specific locations. The high abundances and diversity of coral-reef fish larvae observed in coastal zones of New Caledonia suggest that further studies are needed to fully explore the role of the coastal zones of New Caledonia as nurseries.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Aquatic Science