Structural complexity mediates functional structure of reef fish assemblages among coral habitats

Richardson, Laura E., Graham, Nicholas A.J., Pratchett, Morgan S., and Hoey, Andrew S. (2017) Structural complexity mediates functional structure of reef fish assemblages among coral habitats. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 100 (3). pp. 193-207.

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Coral community composition varies considerably due to both environmental conditions and disturbance histories. However, the extent to which coral composition influences associated fish assemblages remains largely unknown. Here an ecological trait-based ordination analysis was used to compare functional richness (range of unique trait combinations), functional evenness (weighted distribution of fishes with shared traits), and functional divergence (proportion of total abundance supported by species with traits on the periphery of functional space) of fish assemblages among six distinct coral habitats. Despite no significant variation in species richness among habitats, there were differences in the functional richness and functional divergence, but not functional evenness, of fish assemblages among habitats. Structural complexity of coral assemblages was the best predictor of the differences in functional richness and divergence among habitats. Functional richness of fish assemblages was highest in branching Porites habitats, lowest in Pocillopora and soft coral habitats, and intermediate in massive Porites, staghorn Acropora, and mixed coral habitats. Massive and branching Porites habitats displayed greater functional divergence in fish assemblages than the Pocillopora habitat, whilst the remaining habitats were intermediate. Differences in functional richness and divergence were largely driven by the presence of small schooling planktivores in the massive and branching Porites habitats. These results indicate that differential structural complexity among coral communities may act as an environmental filter, affecting the distribution and abundance of associated species traits, particularly those of small-bodied schooling fishes.

Item ID: 50416
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1573-5133
Keywords: coral composition, fish assemblage structure, functional diversity, traits, environmental filtering
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A version of this publication was included as Chapter 3 of the following PhD thesis: Richardson, Laura Elizabeth (2018) Variation in structure and function of reef fish assemblages among distinct coral habitats. PhD thesis, James Cook University, which is available Open Access in ResearchOnline@JCU. Please see the Related URLs for access.

Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC DE130100688, ARC DE130101705
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Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2017 08:46
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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