Scientific Papers and Reports

This is an annotated list of the published papers and reports that have included REEF data. The list is in chronological order. Papers that are available for viewing in .pdf format are noted.

Also see the Projects page for links to additional reports.

Green SJ, Akins JL, Maljković A, Côté IM. 2012. Invasive Lionfish Drive Atlantic Coral Reef Fish Declines.

PLoS ONE. 7(3): e32596. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032596

There is growing concern that lionfish will affect the structure and function of invaded marine ecosystems. Lead author, Stephanie Green, from Simon Fraser University (SFU), along with REEF Director of Special Projects, Lad Akins and other co-authors Aleks Maljković (SFU), and Isabelle Côté (SFU), documented a dramatic 65% decline in 42 species of reef fish eaten by lionfish over a two year period. The study, conducted off New Providence Island in the Bahamas, used data collected during REEF's volunteer lionfish projects to track the explosion of the lionfish population over time, and revealed that lionfish biomass increased from 23% to nearly 40% of the predator biomass on the study sites between 2008 and 2010. This study represents the first documented direct impact of lionfish predation on native reef fishes and highlights the importance of control programs to minimize impacts.

Heppell SA, BX Semmens, SK Archer, CV Pattengill-Semmens, PG Bush, CM McCoy, SS Heppell, BC Johnson. 2012. Documenting recovery of a spawning aggregation through size frequency analysis from underwater laser calipers measurements.

Biological Conservation. 155: 119-127

This paper presents a key technique that scientists from REEF and our Grouper Moon collaborators have used to monitor fish on the Little Cayman spawning aggregation that does not require the capture and handling of fish. We show that length-distribution data can be collected by divers using a video-based system with parallel lasers calibrated to a specific distance apart, and subsequently use those data to monitor changes in the size distribution over time.

Victor BC. 2012. Hypoplectrus floridae n. sp. and Hypoplectrus ecosur n. sp., two new Barred Hamlets from the Gulf of Mexico (Pisces: Serranidae): more than 3% different in COI mtDNA sequence from the Caribbean Hypoplectrus species flock.

Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation. 5: 1-19

This paper features research findings from powerful genetic techniques and the REEF survey data that reveal two new species of hamlet in the Caribbean. As REEF Caribbean surveyors know, hamlets are a group of colorful small sea basses that can sometimes cause ID confusion because of their myriad of colors and patterns. The varied color patterns in these small predators are thought to be a result of mimicry of other colorful herbivore species. There has been ongoing debate in the scientific world about which are actual species and which are simply just color variants or morphotypes. The research featured in the paper revealed significant genetic differences among what seemed to simply be variations of the well-known Barred Hamlet. The two new species are the Florida Barred Hamlet, Hypoplectrus floridae, and the Contoy Hamlet, H. ecosur. The typical Barred Hamlet (H. puella) that is found throughout the Caribbean will be updated to be called the Caribbean Barred Hamlet. Florida Barred Hamlet have been found in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and South Florida, and it overlaps in range with the Barred Hamlet in those area. At the time of publication, the Contoy Hamlet had only been documented on Isla Contoy near the northern tip of the Yucatan peninsula and possibly Isla Mujeres. Florida Barred Hamlet are distinguished by a pair of symmetrical dark spots at the base of the caudal fin along with a break in the mid-body narrow bar. The Contoy Hamlet is distinguished by the same paid of dark spots at the base of the tail as well as a series of additional dark spots along the upper caudal peduncle and below the dorsal fin.

Wuenschel, MJ, JA Hare, ME Kimball, KW Able . 2012. Evaluating juvenile thermal tolerance as a constraint on adult range of gray snapper (Lutjanus griseus): A combined laboratory, field and modeling approach.

Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 436-437 (2012): 19-27

Climate change is expected to cause a poleward shift of many temperate species, however, a mechanistic understanding of how temperature and species' life histories interact to produce observed adult range is often lacking. The authors evaluated the hypothesis that juvenile thermal tolerance determines northern range in gray snapper (Lutjanus griseus), a species commonly caught as juveniles along the US Atlantic coast well north of their adult distribution, using a combined laboratory, field and modeling approach. To evaluate the relationship between juvenile thermal tolerance criteria and adult distributions, the authors used the REEF database to quantify adult distribution. There was a strong correspondence between observations of adult gray snapper from the database of recreational divers vs. latitude with that of the predicted survival of juveniles vs. latitude from their modeling analysis. The agreement between the laboratory-derived thermal tolerance metrics, the spatial distribution of winter temperature, and the distribution of adult gray snapper support the hypothesis that the adult range of gray snapper is largely limited by the overwinter survival of juveniles.

Green, SJ, N Tamburello, SE Miller, JL Akins, IM Cote ́. 2012. Habitat complexity and fish size affect the detection of Indo-Pacific lionfish on invaded coral reefs.

Coral Reefs. 19 December 2012

This paper explores detectability rates of lionfish using underwater visual census methods such as belt transects and stationary visual census. Knowing the error in these methods specficially for lionfish is necessary to help study this invasive species in the western Atlantic. The research was conducted at the Cape Eleuthera Institute, where much of REEF's work on lionfish is conducted.The authors found that the two census methods detect fewer than 30% of lionfish present in an area and, in more than 50% of the cases, fail to detect any lionfish when one or more indivudals are actually present. Two factors affected the ability to detect lionfish: lionfish body size and habitat complexity. 

Jackson, AM, BX Semmens, and G Bernardi. 2012. Characterization and cross-species amplification of microsatellite markers in Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus).

Molecular Ecology Resources. 12(5): 972- 974

This paper is part of the larger body of genetic research being conducted on Nassau Grouper in the Caribbean. The authors identified ten polymorphic microsatellite loci for Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) by cross-amplification of loci isolated in Gulf coney (Epinephelus acanthistius). Samples from three geographic localities were scored for these loci –Glovers Reef off Belize (n = 50), Little Cayman (n = 50) and Grammanik Bank in the U.S. Virgin Islands (n = 50). Screening samples yielded 8 to 27 alleles per locus with observed levels of heterozygosity ranging from 0.30 to 0.96. Markers will be used in a Caribbean-wide study of Nassau grouper to understand patterns of genetic connectivity, as well as to contribute to fisheries management and conservation.

JA Morris, Jr. (ed). 2012. Invasive Lionfish: A Guide to Control and Management.

Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute Special Publication. Series 1, 113 pp

This seminal publication was created by REEF and our collaborators at NOAA, ICRI, the United Nations Environment Programme, Caribbean Environment Programme, SPAW-RAC, and the over 40 participants of the 2010 Caribbean Regional Lionfish Workshop. The guide provides best practices for lionfish control and management, including control strategies, outreach and education, research, monitoring, legal considerations, and ideas for securing resources and partnerships. By following these best practices, resource managers can reduce the local impacts of invasive lionfish in marine protected areas and other places of ecological and economic importance. Available online as a PDF through the link below. Also available as an ebook. Spanish edition also available (email for more information).

Green SJ, JL Akins, and IM Côté. 2011. Foraging behaviour and prey consumption in the Indo-Pacific lionfish on Bahamian coral reefs.

Marine Ecology Progress Series. 433:150-167

Predicting and mitigating the effects of invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish Pterois volitans on Caribbean fish communities requires a thorough understanding of the species’ predation behaviour in the invaded range, including the types and amounts of prey consumed and how foraging patterns vary in relation to extrinsic conditions. We studied the activity levels and prey consumption rates of lionfish on 12 shallow coral reefs in the Bahamas in relation to time of day and prey availability. Lionfish predation rates and activity levels were significantly higher during crepuscular (dawn and dusk) periods than at mid-day. Available prey fish biomass was highest at dawn but lower at mid-day and dusk, suggesting that lionfish predation activity is not limited by prey availability alone. Our calculated average daily mass-specific prey consumption rates, which incorporated daily variation, was ~3 times the estimates obtained from studies of captive lionfish in their native range and of invasive lionfish observed only during the day. Our results will help to predict more accurately the effect of predation by invasive lionfish on native reef fish communities.

Auster, P.J., D. Grenda, J. Godfrey, E. Heupel, S. Auscavitch, and J. Mangiafico. 2011. Behavioral Observations of Lilliputian Piscivores: Young-of-Year Sphyraena barracuda at Offshore Sub-Tropical Reefs (NW Atlantic.

Southeastern Naturalist. 10(3):563-569

REEF Advanced Assessment Team Member, Dave Grenda, recently co-authored a paper documenting behavioral observations of young Great Barracuda occurring on live bottom sub-tropical reefs primarily at Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Georgia. For the past three years Dave assisted University of Connecticut researcher, Dr. Peter Auster, in studying behavioral interactions of piscivores and their prey. During REEF surveys on these cruises, Dave and the other researchers documented young-of-year (YOY) Great Barracuda (those individuals that had very recently settled to the reef, and were between 2-3 inches in length) hunting YOY Tomtate and Silverside that were taking refuge under ledges. Groups of YOY Barracuda would attack, capture, and consume the prey. Prey that escaped the Barracuda retreated to reef edges and were often consumed by bottom-dwelling adult piscivores such as Black Sea Bass, Bank Sea Bass, and Scamp Grouper. These findings indicate that given the strong functional role the young Barracuda have on driving species interactions, greater attention should be given to the roles played by the wider diversity of YOY piscivores recruiting to reef communities.

Koenig, CC, FC Coleman, and K Kingon. 2011. Pattern of Recovery of the Goliath Grouper (Epinephelus itajara) Population in the Southeastern US.

Bulletin of Marine Science. 87: doi:10.5343/bms.2010.1056

This paper reviewed the population status of Atlantic goliath grouper, Epinephelus itajara, in coastal waters of the southeastern United States. The study is based on quantitative surveys conducted by the authors and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Artificial Reef Program (n = 505), coupled with data submitted by REEF surveyors (n = 27,542) over 15+ yrs. The primary objective of the study is to describe the distribution and abundance of the goliath grouper population of the southeastern US with a focus on Florida, the center of US abundance for this species, the center for the historical fishery, and now the center of much controversy. A secondary, but quite important objective is to demonstrate the utility of using existing databases, such as that of REEF to provide what often amounts to the best scientific data available for informing management decisions, particularly in areas and for species for which there is no traditional fishery- dependent data collection.

The authors found that the population of goliath grouper, after dramatic fishery-induced declines in the 1970s and 1980s, and eventual fishery closure in the 1990s, increased off southwest Florida in the mid-1990s, directly offshore of the high-quality mangrove nursery of the Ten Thousand Islands. It then expanded north and south, eventually increasing off Florida’s central east coast. The study also evaluated tagging data, which showed that, regardless of life stage, individuals showed strong site fidelity to home sites: juveniles to mangrove nursery sites and adults to offshore reefs. All long-distance movements appeared to be in response to approaching maturity, with juveniles emigrating from mangroves to take up residence on offshore reefs, to seasonal spawning activity, with adults moving from home sites to aggregation sites, or to apparent feeding sites in inlets. Understanding these patterns of population recovery and movement is fundamental to devising appropriate management policies.

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