Habitat biodiversity as a determinant of fish community structure on coral reefs

Messmer, Vanessa, Jones, Geoffrey P., Munday, Philip L., Holbrook, Sally J., Schmitt, Russell J., and Brooks, Andrew J. (2011) Habitat biodiversity as a determinant of fish community structure on coral reefs. Ecology, 92 (12). pp. 2285-2298.

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Increased habitat diversity is often predicted to promote the diversity of animal communities because a greater variety of habitats increases the opportunities for species to specialize on different resources and coexist. Although positive correlations between the diversities of habitat and associated animals are often observed, the underlying mechanisms are only now starting to emerge, and none have been tested specifically in the marine environment. Scleractinian corals constitute the primary habitat-forming organisms on coral reefs and, as such, play an important role in structuring associated reef fish communities. Using the same field experimental design in two geographic localities differing in regional fish species composition, we tested the effects of coral species richness and composition on the diversity, abundance, and structure of the local fish community. Richness of coral species overall had a positive effect on fish species richness but had no effect on total fish abundance or evenness. At both localities, certain individual coral species supported similar levels of fish diversity and abundance as the high coral richness treatments, suggesting that particular coral species are disproportionately important in promoting high local fish diversity. Furthermore, in both localities, different microhabitats (coral species) supported very different fish communities, indicating that most reef fish species distinguish habitat at the level of coral species. Fish communities colonizing treatments of higher coral species richness represented a combination of those inhabiting the constituent coral species. These findings suggest that mechanisms underlying habitat–animal interaction in the terrestrial environment also apply to marine systems and highlight the importance of coral diversity to local fish diversity. The loss of particular key coral species is likely to have a disproportionate impact on the biodiversity of associated fish communities.

Item ID: 20591
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1939-9170
Keywords: biodiversity; climate change; coral reefs; diversity patterns; Great Barrier Reef, Australia; habitat–animal interactions; habitat loss; Kimbe Bay, northern Papua New Guinea; reef fish; resources; species richness
Date Deposited: 29 Feb 2012 07:11
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 30%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0699 Other Biological Sciences > 069902 Global Change Biology @ 20%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 60%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9699 Other Environment > 969902 Marine Oceanic Processes (excl. Climate Related) @ 20%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9613 Remnant Vegetation and Protected Conservation Areas > 961303 Protected Conservation Areas in Marine Environments @ 20%
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