This study investigated aspects of the population ecology of the endangered Knysna seahorse Hippocampus capensis within different habitat types. High densities of H. capensis were found within artificial Reno mattress habitat, within the Knysna Estuary, South Africa. Monthly surveys at three sites were conducted from October 2015 to August 2016 to compare population densities of H. capensis in this artificial habitat with natural eel grass Zostera capensis habitat. Hippocampus capensis densities varied significantly across all sites and highest population densities were consistently observed within the Reno mattress habitat. Hippocampus capensis were also found to be significantly larger within the Reno mattress habitat and pooled data showed that males were significantly larger than females. The overall sex ratio for all three sites was female biased, although this varied across seasons at two sites. The findings suggest that artificial Reno mattresses provide novel habitat for this endangered species and consideration should be given to the usefulness of these structures in future conservation actions.
Keywords: Hippocampus capensis; Knysna; conservation; population ecology; seagrass; seahorses.
© 2018 The Fisheries Society of the British Isles.