Assessing Abundance and Behavior of Vertebrate Marine Species in the Red Mangroves of San Cristobal Island using GoPro Video Surveillance
Berke, Brigette M.
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Near shore enclosed bay ecosystems provide a critical ecosystem service for many different species (Llerena, 2018). The rocky ecosystems offer protection from the fierce winds and strong currents due to the presence of a rock barrier near the entrance the bays. The lack of otherwise constant disturbance allows a multitude of species to establish communities (Ray & Gregg, 1991). Among these species, red mangrove is one of the most critical in maintaining these areas and populations (Laegdsgaard & Johnson, 2001). Red mangrove provides a critical ecosystem service of protecting the next generation of a species from predation and subsequently ensuring their continues success. Juvenile marine species are the immediate benefactors, though many different species from adult tropical fish to invertebrates are theorized to use them. While many theories and models exist about fish abundance and why they chose mangroves, little to no research has been done within the mangroves. Through Drone technology and GoPro video footage, we were able to characterize the fish communities within three mangrove fringed bays of San Cristobal Island, as well as describe how they are using them. Our research found 7981 individuals and 17 species within the mangrove system, classified as the area inside and immediately outside of the mangrove roots. Seven species were observed eating, and all but five species were observed inside the mangrove roots. By better understanding the fish assemblages within bay ecosystems, we can have a more informed discussion on conservation of both the habitat and the species found there.