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Enhancement of juvenile Caribbean spiny lobsters an evaluation of changes in multiple response variables with the addition of large artificial shelters




, : Enhancement of juvenile Caribbean spiny lobsters an evaluation of changes in multiple response variables with the addition of large artificial shelters. Oecologia 151(3): 401-416

Shortage of natural crevice shelters may produce population bottlenecks in juvenile Caribbean spiny lobsters (Panulirus argus), a socially gregarious species. We conducted a field experiment to test enhancement of a local population of juvenile P. argus with the addition of artificial shelters ((3z(Bcasitas(3y)(B that mimic large crevices (1.1 m superscript 2(B in surface area and 3.8 cm in height). Changes in density and biomass of juvenile lobsters 15-50 mm carapace length (CL) were assessed with a multiple before-after control-impact (MBACI) analysis. Separate analyses were also conducted on small (15-35 mm CL) and large (35.1-50 mm CL) juveniles to assess size-related effects. First, we carried out 13 lobster surveys on nine fixed 1-ha sites over a shallow reef lagoon ((3z(Bbefore(3y(B period). Then, we deployed ten casitas in each of five sites and left four sites as controls, and conducted 22 further surveys ((3z(Bafter(3y(B period). Deployment of casitas resulted in a sixfold increase in juvenile density (76% contributed by small and 24% by large juveniles) and a sevenfold increase in biomass (40 and 60%, respectively). Capture-recapture results revealed that enhancement was achieved not by promoting individual growth but by increasing survival, persistence, and foraging ranges of small and large juveniles. Casitas both mitigated shortage of natural shelter and increased sociality, allowing for cohabitation of smaller, more vulnerable juveniles with larger conspecifics that have greater defensive abilities. Casitas may help enhance local populations of juvenile P. argus in Caribbean seagrass habitats, typically poor in natural crevice shelters. The use of MBACI and the simultaneous assessment of multiple interrelated response variables may be a powerful analytical approach to test shelter limitation in other species and to examine the function of structural habitat in other systems.

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