Variation in abundance, diversity and composition of coral reef fishes with increasing depth at a submerged shoal in the northern Great Barrier Reef

Scott, Molly E., Tebbett, Sterling B., Whitman, Kirsty L., Thompson, Cassandra A., Mancini, Frank B., Heupel, Michelle R., and Pratchett, Morgan S. (2022) Variation in abundance, diversity and composition of coral reef fishes with increasing depth at a submerged shoal in the northern Great Barrier Reef. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, 32. pp. 941-962.

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Coral reef fishes often exhibit specific or restricted depth distributions, but the factors (biotic or abiotic) that influence patterns of depth use are largely unknown. Given inherent biological gradients with depth (i.e. light, nutrients, habitat, temperature), it is expected that fishes may exploit certain depths within their environment to seek out more favourable conditions. This study used baited remote underwater video (BRUV) systems to document variation in the taxonomic and functional (trophic and size) structure of a fish assemblage along a shallow to upper-mesophotic depth gradient (13–71 m) at a submerged, offshore shoal in the northern Great Barrier Reef. BRUVs were deployed during two separate time periods (February and August 2017), to separately examine patterns of depth use. Both the relative abundance and diversity of reef fishes declined with depth, and there were pronounced differences in the taxonomic and functional structure of the fish assemblage across the depth gradient. In shallow habitats (< 30 m), the fish assemblage was dominated by herbivores, detritivores, planktivores and sessile invertivores, whereas the fish assemblage in deeper habitats (> 30 m) was dominated by piscivores and mobile invertivores. Depth and habitat type were also strong predictors for important fisheries species such as coral trout (Plectropomus spp.), emperors (Lethrinus spp.) and trevallies (Carangid spp.). We found limited evidence of temporal changes in depth and habitat use by fishes (including fisheries target species), although recorded temperatures were 4 °C higher in February 2017 compared to August 2017.

Item ID: 75420
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1573-5184
Keywords: Baited remote underwater video systems, Coral reef fisheries, Depth variation, Mesophotic reefs, Submerged shoals, Tropical fishes, Fish assemblage
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2022. 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
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC CE140100020
Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2022 08:26
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 10 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 1003 Fisheries - wild caught > 100305 Wild caught fin fish (excl. tuna) @ 50%
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180504 Marine biodiversity @ 50%
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