Viability analysis of reef fish populations based on limited demographic information

Jeffrey Wielgus, Ford Ballantyne IV, Enric Sala, Leah Gerber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Marine protected areas (MPAs) that allow some degree of artisanal fishing have been proposed to control the overexploitation of marine resources while allowing extraction by local communities. Nevertheless, the management of MPAs is often impaired by the absence of data on the status of their resources. We devised a method to estimate population growth rates with the type of data that are usually available for reef fishes. We used 7 years of spatially explicit abundance data on the leopard grouper (Mycteroperca rosacea) in an MPA in the Gulf of California, Mexico, to construct a matrix population model that incorporated the effects of El Niño/La Niña Southern Oscillation on population dynamics. An environmental model that estimated different demographic estimates for El Niño and La Niña periods performed better than a single-environment model, and a single-habitat model performed better than a model that considered different depths as different habitats. Our results suggest that the population of the leopard grouper off the main island of the MPA is not viable under present conditions. Although the impact of fishing on leopard grouper populations in the MPA has not yet been established, fishing should be closed as a precautionary measure at this island if a priority of the MPA is to ensure the sustainability of its fish populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-454
Number of pages8
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2007


  • El Niño
  • Environmental variability
  • Gulf of California
  • Marine protected areas
  • Matrix population models
  • Mycteroperca
  • Population viability analysis
  • Reef fish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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