High diversity, abundance and distinct fish assemblages on submerged coral reef pinnacles compared to shallow emergent reefs

Galbraith, G.F., Cresswell, B., McCormick, M.I., Bridge, T.C., and Jones, G.P. (2021) High diversity, abundance and distinct fish assemblages on submerged coral reef pinnacles compared to shallow emergent reefs. Coral Reefs, 40. pp. 335-354.

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Abstract

Coral reefs exhibit consistent patterns in biodiversity across multiple spatial scales, from local to global clines in species richness, abundance and community structure. Knowledge of fundamental processes driving these patterns is largely derived from studies of shallow, emergent and nearshore reefs. Although research efforts are expanding to deeper mesophotic coral reef ecology, distinct and isolated reef morphologies like submerged pinnacles or seamounts have received scant attention. Despite being potentially important for connectivity and as refugia, the extent to which established patterns and processes in coral reef ecology apply to these systems is unknown. Here we examine the fish and benthic communities associated with coral reefs found on submerged pinnacles in Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea. Community structure and diversity metrics are compared with emergent reefs at the same depth in both near and offshore settings. We then explicitly test whether benthic complexity variables known to influence reef fish communities exhibit similar patterns at each reef type. Pinnacles were characterised by 3.70 times the mean fish abundance and 1.98 times the species richness recorded at the same depths on emergent reefs. Fish community structure showed distinct separation across reef morphologies, with pinnacles most similar to offshore reefs. Benthic habitat complexity did not vary across reef types while fish assemblages were weakly related to benthic habitat variables, with reef morphology the most consistent predictor of fish community metrics. The pinnacles in our study support high coral reef fish biodiversity despite their small habitat area and relative isolation by depth and offshore setting. Our results suggest that habitat-specific environmental conditions are generated by the distinct geomorphology of pinnacles. As coastal reefs become more increasingly disturbed, understanding ecological patterns on deep patch reef habitats like pinnacles will be useful to provide a more holistic understanding of coral reef seascapes and their resilience.

Item ID: 66075
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Keywords: Submerged reefs, Pinnacles, Coral seamounts-offshore fish assemblages, Community ecology, Biodiversity
Copyright Information: © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH, DE part of Springer Nature 2021
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC DP190103056
Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2021 18:07
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180504 Marine biodiversity @ 100%
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