Centre de ressources numériques
Estimating diversity and abundance of fish species is fundamental for understanding community structure and dynamics of coral reefs. When designing a sampling protocol, one crucial step is the choice of the most suitable sampling technique which is a compromise between the questions addressed, the available means and the precision required. The objective of this study is to compare the ability to sample reef fish communities at the same locations using two techniques based on the same stationary point count method: one using Underwater Visual Census (UVC) and the other rotating video (STAVIRO). UVC and STAVIRO observations were carried out on the exact same 26 points on the reef slope of an intermediate reef and the associated inner barrier reefs. STAVIRO systems were always deployed 30 min to 1 hour after UVC and set exactly at the same place. Our study shows that; (i) fish community observations by UVC and STAVIRO differed significantly; (ii) species richness and density of large species were not significantly different between techniques; (iii) species richness and density of small species were higher for UVC; (iv) density of fished species was higher for STAVIRO and (v) only UVC detected significant differences in fish assemblage structure across reef type at the spatial scale studied. We recommend that the two techniques should be used in a complementary way to survey a large area within a short period of time. UVC may census reef fish within complex habitats or in very shallow areas such as reef flat whereas STAVIRO would enable carrying out a large number of stations focused on large and diver-averse species, particularly in the areas not covered by UVC due to time and depth constraints. This methodology would considerably increase the spatial coverage and replication level of fish monitoring surveys.