Habitat type and complexity drive fish assemblages in a tropical seascape

Hall, April E., and Kingsford, Michael J. (2021) Habitat type and complexity drive fish assemblages in a tropical seascape. Journal of Fish Biology, 99 (4). pp. 1364-1379.

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Inshore marine seascapes support a diversity of interconnected habitats and are an important focus for biodiversity conservation. This study examines the importance of habitat attributes to fish assemblages across a mosaic of inshore habitats: coral reefs, rocky reefs, macroalgae beds and sand/rubble beds. Fishes and benthic habitats were surveyed at 34 sites around continental islands of the central Great Barrier Reef using baited remote underwater video stations (BRUVS). Species richness was influenced foremost by habitat type and also by structural complexity within habitat types. The most speciose assemblages occurred in coral and rocky reef habitats with high structural complexity, provided by the presence of coral bommies/overhangs, boulders and rock crevices. Nonetheless, macroalgae and sand/rubble beds also supported unique species, and therefore contributed to the overall richness of fish assemblages in the seascape. Most trophic groups had positive associations with complexity, which was the most important predictor for abundance of piscivorous fishes and mobile planktivores. There was significant differentiation of fish assemblages among habitats, with the notable exception of coral and rocky reefs. Species assemblages overlapped substantially between coral and rocky reefs, which had 60% common species, despite coral cover being lower on rocky reefs. This suggests that, for many species, rocky and coral substrates can provide equivalent habitat structure, emphasizing the importance of complexity in providing habitat refuges, and highlighting the contribution of rocky reefs to habitat provision within tropical seascapes. The results of this study support an emerging recognition of the collective value of habitat mosaics in inshore marine ecosystems.

Item ID: 70083
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1095-8649
Keywords: baited remote underwater video stations, coral reefs, Great Barrier Reef, macroalgae, rocky reefs, rugosity
Copyright Information: © 2021 Fisheries Society of the British Isles
Funders: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Australian Research Council (ARC)
Date Deposited: 15 Nov 2021 22:57
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1802 Coastal and estuarine systems and management > 180201 Assessment and management of coastal and estuarine ecosystems @ 100%
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