An Empirical Test of Recruitment Limitation in a Coral Reef Fish

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Science  18 Feb 1994:
Vol. 263, Issue 5149, pp. 935-939
DOI: 10.1126/science.263.5149.935


A long-term, large-scale empirical test of the recruitment limitation hypothesis was done by sampling fish populations from the southern Great Barrier Reef after having monitored their recruitment histories for 9 years. After adjustment for demographic differences, recruitment patterns explained over 90 percent of the spatial variation in abundance of a common damselfish among seven coral reefs. The age structures from individual reefs also preserved major temporal variations in the recruitment signal over at least 10 years. Abundance and demography of this small fish at these spatial and temporal scales can be explained almost entirely as variable recruitment interacting with density-independent mortality.

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