Coral reef pinnacles act as ecological magnets for the abundance, diversity and biomass of predatory fishes

Cresswell, B.J., Galbraith, G.F., Harrison, H.B., McCormick, M.I., and Jones, G.P, (2023) Coral reef pinnacles act as ecological magnets for the abundance, diversity and biomass of predatory fishes. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 717. pp. 143-156.

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Predation is a key ecological process regulating the structure and diversity of biological communities, yet predators do not exist homogeneously in nature. Coral reefs possess diverse assemblages of predatory fishes, the distribution and abundance of which is well documented for coastal and emergent reefs. However, for remote, isolated and submerged reefs, such as those found on pinnacles and seamounts, our understanding of predatory fish communities is limited. These features are ubiquitous in the world’s oceans and frequently targeted by fishers for their presumed fish aggregation properties. Here we describe communities of predatory fishes on a series of pinnacle reefs and contrast these to regional coastal and offshore emergent reefs. Pinnacles supported 2-4× higher abundance, biomass and diversity of predatory fishes compared to emergent reefs. They also supported unique communities, with 32 out of the 63 predator species in our study found only on pinnacle reefs. For species found on all 3 reef types, all were most abundant on pinnacles and the 6 taxa driving differences in community structure were most abundant on pinnacles. Together, our results show that predatory fishes are strongly attracted to pinnacles, although the mechanisms are still unclear. Prioritising the selection of these small ecological magnets in conservation planning would be an effective approach to target the protection of regional reef fish biodiversity.

Item ID: 80429
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1616-1599
Keywords: Coral reefs, coral reef fishes, pinnacles, seamounts, biodiversity, predators
Copyright Information: © Inter-Research 2023.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC DP19010305, ARC CE140100020
Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2023 02:17
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310302 Community ecology (excl. invasive species ecology) @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180504 Marine biodiversity @ 100%
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