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Influence of the coral reef assemblages on the spatial distribution of echinoderms in a gradient of human impacts along the tropical Mexican Pacific

Hermosillo-Nuñez, Brenda B., Rodríguez-Zaragoza, Fabián A., Ortiz, Marco, Calderon-Aguilera, Luis E., Cupul-Magaña, Amilcar L.
Biodiversity and conservation 2016 v.25 no.11 pp. 2137-2152
Balanus, Bryozoa, Echinometra, Holothuria, Pavona, anthropogenic activities, coasts, conservation programs, coral reefs, corals, ecosystems, lawns and turf, macroalgae, sand
Fourteen species of echinoderms and their relationships to the benthic structure of the coral reefs were assessed at 27 sites—with different levels of human disturbances—along the coast of the Mexican Central Pacific. Diadema mexicanum and Phataria unifascialis were the most abundant species. The spatial variation of the echinoderm assemblages showed that D. mexicanum, Eucidaris thouarsii, P. unifascialis, Centrostephanus coronatus, Toxopneustes roseus, Holothuria fuscocinerea, Cucumaria flamma, and Echinometra vanbrunti accounted for the dissimilarities among the sites. The spatial variation among the sites was mainly explained by the cover of the hard corals (Porites, Pocillopora, Pavona, Psammocora), different macroalgae species (turf, encrusting calcareous algae, articulated calcareous algae, fleshy macroalgae), sponges, bryozoans, rocky, coral rubble, sand, soft corals (hydrocorals and octocorals), Tubastrea coccinea coral, Balanus spp., and water depth. The coverage of Porites, Pavona, and Pocillopora corals, soft coral, rock, and Balanos shows a positive relationship with the sampling sites included within the natural protected area with low human disturbances. Contrary, fleshy macroalgae, sponges, and soft coral show a positive relationship with higher disturbance sites. The results presented here show the importance of protecting the structural heterogeneity of coral reef habitats because it is a significant factor for the distribution of echinoderm species and can contribute to the design of conservation programs for the coral reef ecosystem.