Seafloor Terrain Shapes the Three-dimensional Nursery Value of Mangrove and Seagrass Habitats

Borland, Hayden P., Gilby, Ben L., Henderson, Christopher J., Connolly, Rod M., Gorissen, Bob, Ortodossi, Nicholas L., Rummell, Ashley L., Nagelkerken, Ivan, Pittman, Simon J., Sheaves, Marcus, and Olds, Andrew D. (2023) Seafloor Terrain Shapes the Three-dimensional Nursery Value of Mangrove and Seagrass Habitats. Ecosystems, 26. pp. 442-456.

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Mangroves and seagrasses are important nurseries for many marine species, and this function is linked to the complexity and context of these habitats in coastal seascapes. It is also connected to bathymetric features that influence habitat availability, and the accessibility of refuge habitats, but the significance of terrain variation for nursery function is unknown. To test whether seafloor terrain influences nursery function, we surveyed fish assemblages from mangrove and seagrass habitats in 29 estuaries in eastern Australia with unbaited underwater cameras and quantified the surrounding three-dimensional terrain with a set of complementary surface metrics (that is, depth, aspect, curvature, slope, roughness) applied to sonar-derived bathymetric maps. Terrain metrics explained variability in assemblages in both mangroves and seagrasses, with differing effects for the entire fish assemblage and nursery species composition, and between habitats. Higher depth, plan curvature (concavity or convexity) and roughness (backscatter) were negatively correlated with abundance and diversity in mangroves and positively linked to abundance and diversity in seagrass. Mangrove nursery species (6 species) were most abundant in forests adjacent to flats with concave holes, rough substrates and low-moderate depths, whereas seagrass nursery species (3 species) were most abundant in meadows adjacent to deep channels with soft mounds and ledges. These findings indicate that seafloor terrain influences nursery function and demonstrate contrasting effects of terrain variation in mangroves and seagrass. We suggest that incorporating three-dimensional terrain into coastal conservation and restoration plans could help to improve outcomes for fisheries management, but contrasting strategies might be needed for different nursery habitats.

Item ID: 74305
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1435-0629
Keywords: bathymetry, estuary, nursery, seafloor complexity, seascape ecology, terrain
Copyright Information: © 2022 The Author(s). Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Date Deposited: 25 May 2022 09:20
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 > 180299 Coastal and estuarine systems and management not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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