Abstract

Morrocoy National Park is one of the most studied coastal marine enviroments in Venezuela; however, efforts have been concentrated in south zone. In this study we select a shallow reef located in the north zone, characterized the benthic community and the structure of the fish community was studied using visual censuses. The benthic community was dominated by dead coral covered by algae (31%) and the live coral coverage was 12%. A total of 65 fish species belonging to 24 families were recorded, being Pomacentridae (43%), Scaridae (19%) and Haemulidae (15%) the most abundant families. Significant differences in the fish species abundances were found along the depth gradient, which could be related to the habitat characteristics, nevertheless herbivorous species dominance was evident at all depth strata. There seems to be a trend towards greater richness and density in the south zone reefs, and these differences may be related to the presence of extensive seagrass meadows and mangrove forests in that area or to differences in the recruitment patterns.
Keywords: community structure, reef fish, spatial distribution, Morrocoy National Park, Venezuela