Great Barrier Reef butterflyfish community structure: the role of shelf position and benthic community type

Emslie, M.J., Pratchett, M.S., Cheal, A.J., and Osborne, K. (2010) Great Barrier Reef butterflyfish community structure: the role of shelf position and benthic community type. Coral Reefs, 29 (3). pp. 705-715.

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The extent to which fish communities are structured by spatial variability in coral reef habitats versus stochastic processes (such as larval supply) is very important in predicting responses to sustained and ongoing habitat degradation. In this study, butterflyfish and benthic communities were surveyed annually over 15 years on 47 reefs (spanning 12° of latitude) of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Spatial autocorrelation in the structure of butterflyfish communities versus key differences in reef habitats was investigated to assess the extent to which the structure of these fish communities is influenced by habitat conditions. Benthic communities on each of the 47 reefs were broadly categorised as either: 1. Poritidae/Alcyoniidae, 2. mixed taxa, 3. soft coral or 4. Acropora-dominated habitats. These habitat types most reflected increases in water clarity and wave exposure, moving across the GBR shelf from coastal to outer-shelf environments. In turn, each habitat type also supported very distinct butterflyfish communities. Hard coral feeders were always the dominant butterflyfish species in each community type. However, the numerically dominant species changed according to habitat type, representing spatial replacement of species across the shelf. This study reveals clear and consistent differences in the structure of fish communities among reefs associated with marked differences in habitat structure.

Item ID: 15542
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Keywords: butterflyfish; community structure; habitat; benthic communities; abundance; spatial patterns; distribution; Great Barrier Reef
Date Deposited: 01 Mar 2011 06:30
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960502 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic Environments @ 100%
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