Fish use of a mangrove habitat was studied in a small mangrove forest on the West coast of Madagascar. A sand bar near the inlet retains water in parts of the channel (pools) at low tide. Fishes in four of these pools were examined daily at all phases of the tidal cycle for 3 weeks using underwater visual census.
During week 1, fishes were diverse and abundant in all pools: the dominant species were cardinalfish (related to Apogon lateralis); monos, Monodactylus argenteus; black spotted snappers, Lutjanus ehrenbergi; double bar bream, Acanthopagrus bifasciatus; emperors, Lethrinus
lentjan and L. sp., surgeon fish, Acanthurus nigricauda; red-lined sweetlips, Plectorhinchus plagiodesmis; and butterflyfish, Chaetodon kleini. Some species were more abundant in shaded pools; others in more open pools. During week 2 a dramatic difference was noted: the only fishes found were schools of cardinalfish and one moray eel. This week had neap tides, with high tidesin the morning and low tides in the afternoon. As the week progressed and during week 3 (spring tides), fishes slowly repopulated the habitat and diversity increased.
Monos, absent in week 2, now had increasing numbers of small individuals. While large emperors were scarce, small individuals appeared. The larger butterflyfish and surgeonfish seen in week 1 were replaced by small ones during week 3. Species that had been rare in week 1 were
more abundant, including pipefish and small barracudas. While species richness increased during week 3, the community was strikingly different from that seen 2 weeks earlier. Only Pool 1, closest to the entrance, recovered its original species richness. Abundance wasmuch lower than in week 1. Our snapshot study apparently captured a time when older juveniles left the mangrove forest and smaller fishes recruited into it.
Utilization of this habitat will likely vary throughout the year depending on the reproductive cycle of the different species whose juveniles utilize it. Longer studies are needed to learn about cycles in fish use of the mangroves.