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Microhabitat partitioning between sympatric intertidal fish species highlights the importance of sediment composition in gravel beach conservation
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  • Maximilian Wagner,
  • Čedomir Benac,
  • Maja Pamić,
  • Sandra Bračun,
  • Martin Ladner,
  • Pia Plakolm,
  • Stephan Koblmüller,
  • Hannes Svardal,
  • Simon Brandl
Maximilian Wagner
Karl-Franzens-Universitat Graz

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Čedomir Benac
University of Rijeka
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Maja Pamić
University of Zagreb
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Sandra Bračun
Karl-Franzens-Universitat Graz
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Martin Ladner
Karl-Franzens-Universitat Graz
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Pia Plakolm
Karl-Franzens-Universitat Graz
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Stephan Koblmüller
Karl-Franzens-Universitat Graz
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Hannes Svardal
University of Antwerp
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Simon Brandl
The University of Texas at Austin
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1 Gravel beaches in the Mediterranean ecoregion represent an economically important and unique habitat type. Yet, burgeoning tourism, intensive coastal development and artificial nourishment of beaches may jeopardize their ecological communities. To date, species that reside on gravel beaches and the consequences of beach alterations are poorly understood, which hampers the development of a sustainable coastal tourism industry along the region’s shorelines. 2 Using a simple collection method based on dredging buckets through the intertidal section of beaches, we quantified the microhabitat association of two sympatric clingfish species in the genus Gouania at seven natural and an artificial gravel beach based on sediment characteristics. We hypothesized that slender (G. pigra) and stout (G. adriatica) morphotypes would partition interstitial niche space based on sediment size, which may affect the vulnerability of the species to changes in gravel beach composition due to coastal development. 3 We detected substantial differences in gravel composition within and among the sampled beaches which suggests scope for microhabitat partitioning in Gouania. Indeed, we found significant relationships between species identity and the presence/absence and abundance of individuals in hauls based on their positioning on PC1. 4 Our results suggest that modifications of gravel beaches through coastal development, including beach nourishment, intensifying coastal erosion, or artificial beach creation, may have detrimental consequences for the two species if sediment types or sizes are altered. We posit that, given the simplicity and efficacy of our sampling method and the sensitivity of Gouania species to prevailing gravel composition, the genus could serve as an important indicator for gravel beach management in the Mediterranean ecoregion.
31 Mar 2023Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
01 Apr 2023Submission Checks Completed
01 Apr 2023Assigned to Editor
13 May 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
05 Jun 2023Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
24 Jun 20231st Revision Received
26 Jun 2023Submission Checks Completed
26 Jun 2023Assigned to Editor
26 Jun 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
01 Jul 2023Editorial Decision: Accept