Environmental disturbance events drive declines in juvenile wrasse biomass on inshore coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef

Lowe, J. R., Williamson, D. H., Ceccarelli, D. M., Evans, R. D., and Russ, G. R. (2020) Environmental disturbance events drive declines in juvenile wrasse biomass on inshore coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 103. pp. 1279-1293.

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Environmental disturbances and fishing are well known drivers of coral reef fish population size, length-frequency, and assemblage structure. However, few studies have partitioned the spatial and temporal impacts of multiple disturbance events and long-term no-take marine reserve (NTMR) protection on the biomass of juvenile and adult reef-fishes based on the known size of sexual maturity. Here, we document responses in the biomass of juvenile and adult wrasses (Labridae) Hemigymnus melapterus, H. fasciatus, Cheilinus fasciatus, and Oxycheilinus digramma, to environmental disturbance events, NTMR protection, and predator density on inshore fringing coral reefs at the Palm and Whitsunday Island groups, Great Barrier Reef (GBR), Australia from 2007 to 2018 (12 years). The biomass of juvenile and adult wrasses on inshore GBR reefs were driven predominantly by benthic habitat associations, rather than by NTMR protection or density of wrasse predators (Plectropomus spp.). Despite similar species-specific associations of juvenile and adult wrasses with benthic cover, juvenile wrasse biomass consistently declined following coral bleaching and cyclone events. Conversely, adult wrasses had variable responses to disturbance events, including some increases in biomass. Disturbance-mediated declines in the biomass of juvenile wrasses are likely to generate ongoing reductions in the abundance of these species on inshore GBR reefs. Our findings provide further evidence that habitat loss impacts a range of coral reef fishes beyond those that are directly reliant upon live coral. Shifts in assemblage structure, loss of biodiversity, and reductions in fishery productivity will become increasingly apparent in coral reef ecosystems if anthropogenic global warming continues unabated.

Item ID: 67709
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1573-5133
Keywords: coral bleaching; cyclones; fishing; Great Barrier Reef; marine reserves; wrasses
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Copyright Information: © Springer Nature B.V. 2020
Additional Information:

A version of this publication was included as Chapter 3 of the following PhD thesis: Lowe, Jake R. (2020) Relative effects of environmental variation and fishing on the demography and ecology of tropical wrasses. 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), CRC Reef Research Centre, MTSRF, Commonwealth Government, National Environment Research Program (NERP), National Environmental Science Research Program (NESP), Reef 2050 Integrated Monitoring and Reporting Program
Date Deposited: 09 Apr 2021 03:55
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 70%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation > 410102 Ecological impacts of climate change and ecological adaptation @ 30%
SEO Codes: 19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1901 Adaptation to climate change > 190102 Ecosystem adaptation to climate change @ 100%
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