Variability in the functional composition of coral reef fish communities on submerged and emergent reefs in the central Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Cooper, Amanda M., MacDonald, Chancey, Roberts, T. Edward, and Bridge, Tom C.L. (2019) Variability in the functional composition of coral reef fish communities on submerged and emergent reefs in the central Great Barrier Reef, Australia. PLoS ONE, 14 (5). e0216785.

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On coral reefs, depth and gradients related to depth (e.g. light and wave exposure) influence the composition of fish communities. However, most studies focus only on emergent reefs that break the sea surface in shallow waters (<10 m). On the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), submerged reefs (reefs that do not break the sea surface) occupy an area equivalent to all emergent reefs. However, submerged reefs have received comparatively little research attention, and fish communities associated with submerged reefs remain poorly quantified. Here, we quantify fish assemblages at each of three depths (10, 20 and 30 m) on eight submerged reefs (four mid-shelf and four outer-shelf) and two nearby emergent reefs in the central GBR where reef habitat extends from 0-~25 m depth. We examine how total fish abundance, the abundance of 13 functional groups, and the functional composition of fish communities varies among depths, reef types (submerged versus emergent reefs), and shelf position (mid-shelf versus outer-shelf). Overall fish abundance decreased sevenfold with depth, but declined less steeply (twofold) on outer-shelf submerged reefs than on both mid-shelf submerged reefs and emergent reefs. The functional composition of the fish assemblage also varied significantly among depths and reef types. Turnover in the functional composition of the fish community was also steeper on the mid-shelf, suggesting that shallow-affiliated groups extend further in deeper water on the outer-shelf. Ten of the 13 functional groups were more strongly associated with the shallowest depths (the upper reef slope of emergent reefs or the 'crests' of submerged reefs), two groups (soft coral/sponge feeders and mesopredators) were more abundant at the deepest sites. Our results confirm that submerged reefs in the central GBR support a wide range of coral reef fishes, and are an important component of the GBR ecosystem.

Item ID: 58333
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Copyright Information: © 2019 Cooper et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funders: Ian Potter Foundation, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Date Deposited: 22 Aug 2019 02:16
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310302 Community ecology (excl. invasive species ecology) @ 70%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 30%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 60%
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