Global fisheries are in decline, calling for urgent evidence-based action. One such action is the identification and protection of fishery-associated habitats such as seagrass meadows and kelp forests, both of which have suffered long-term loss and degradation in the North Atlantic region. Direct comparisons of the value of seagrass and kelp in supporting demersal fish assemblages are largely absent from the literature. Here, we address this knowledge gap. Demersal fish were sampled using a baited camera to test for differences between habitats in (1) the species composition of the fish assemblages, (2) the total abundance and species richness of fishes, and (3) the abundances of major commercial species. Seagrass and kelp-associated fish assemblages formed two significantly distinct groupings, which were driven by increased whiting (Merlangius merlangus
) and dogfish (Scyliorhinus canicula
) presence in seagrass and higher abundances of pollock (Pollachius pollachius
) and goby (Gobiusculus flavescens
) in kelp. The abundance, diversity, and species richness did not change significantly between the two habitats. We conclude that seagrass and kelp do support unique demersal fish assemblages, providing evidence that they have different ecological value through their differing support of commercial fish species. Thus, this study improves the foundation for evidence-based policy changes.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited