Roles of depth, current speed, and benthic cover in shaping gorgonian assemblages at the Palm Islands (Great Barrier Reef)

Panero, Marta, Galbraith, G.F., Srinivasan, M., and Jones, G.P. (2023) Roles of depth, current speed, and benthic cover in shaping gorgonian assemblages at the Palm Islands (Great Barrier Reef). Coral Reefs. (In Press)

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Abstract

Gorgonians are a diverse and conspicuous component of coral reef ecosystems, providing habitat structure that supports unique assemblages of fishes and invertebrates. Evaluating their overall importance as ecological engineers requires an understanding of their spatial patterns of distribution, abundance and assemblage composition, and the biophysical factors that drive these patterns. No baseline data are available on the spatial patterns of distribution of gorgonians for the Great Barrier Reef. In this study, we quantified the abundance, genera richness, and composition of gorgonian assemblages using video surveys at three depths (5, 10, and 15 m) at 16 locations at the Palm Islands, an inshore island group in the central Great Barrier Reef. We compared gorgonian abundance and genera richness between depths and assessed the role of benthic habitat in structuring gorgonian communities. We also conducted a preliminary investigation of the potential role of water currents in driving gorgonian spatial patterns in the Palm Islands, using in situ current meters. Gorgonian abundance and genera richness consistently increased with depth, although the magnitude of the depth effect varied among locations. Abundance increased with increasing percent cover of rubble and conversely declined with increasing cover of hard corals. The composition of gorgonian assemblages also varied among depths, with whip (Junceella, Viminella) and fan (Acanthogorgia, Anthogorgia, Annella) growth forms being dominant at depths of 5 and 10 m, and branching (Dichotella, Icilogorgia) and candelabrum (Ctenocella) forms being dominant at 15 m. The shallow gorgonian assemblage was associated with high coral cover, whilst the deeper assemblage was associated with high per cent cover of rubble, turf and/or macroalgae. This study highlighted that the abundance, diversity, and composition of gorgonian assemblages on coral reefs in the Palm Islands are determined by a range of biophysical factors linked to depth. Further work is required to isolate the primary drivers of these depth-related effects and evaluate their relative importance.

Item ID: 80383
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Keywords: Benthic substrata, Community ecology, Current, Depth, Ecosystem engineers, Octocorals
Copyright Information: 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 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC DP19010356
Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2023 01:31
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310302 Community ecology (excl. invasive species ecology) @ 25%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 50%
37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3708 Oceanography > 370803 Physical oceanography @ 25%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180504 Marine biodiversity @ 60%
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180501 Assessment and management of benthic marine ecosystems @ 20%
28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280102 Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences @ 20%
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