Physical, biological and anthropogenic drivers of spatial patterns of coral reef fish assemblages at regional and local scales

Ceccarelli, Daniela M., Evans, Richard D., Logan, Murray, Jones, Geoffrey P., Puotinen, Marji, Petus, Caroline, Russ, Garry R., Srinivasan, Maya, and Williamson, David H. (2023) Physical, biological and anthropogenic drivers of spatial patterns of coral reef fish assemblages at regional and local scales. Science of the Total Environment, 904. 166695.

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Species abundance, diversity and community assemblage structure are determined by multiple physical, habitat and management drivers that operate across multiple spatial scales. Here we used a multi-scale coral reef monitoring dataset to examine regional and local differences in the abundance, species richness and composition of fish assemblages in no-take marine reserve (NTMR) and fished zones at four island groups in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Australia. We applied boosted regression trees to quantify the influence of 20 potential drivers on the coral reef fish assemblages. Reefs in two locations, Magnetic Island and the Keppel Islands, had distinctive fish assemblages and low species richness, while the Palm and Whitsunday Islands had similar species composition and higher species richness. Overall, our analyses identified several important physical (temperature, wave exposure) and biological (coral, turf, macroalgal and unconsolidated substratum cover) drivers of inshore reef fish communities, some of which are being altered by human activities. Of these, sea surface temperature (SST) was more influential at large scales, while wave exposure was important both within and between island groups. Species richness declined with increasing macroalgal cover and exposure to cyclones, and increased with SST. Species composition was most strongly influenced by mean SST and percent cover of macroalgae. There was substantial regional variation in the local drivers of spatial patterns. Although NTMR zoning influenced total fish density in some regions, it had negligible effects on fish species richness, composition and trophic structure because of the relatively small number of species targeted by the fishery. These findings show that inshore reef fishes are directly influenced by disturbances typical of the nearshore Great Barrier Reef, highlighting the need to complement global action on climate change with more targeted localised efforts to maintain or improve the condition of coral reef habitats.

Item ID: 80504
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1879-1026
Keywords: Boosted regression trees, Coral reef fish, Environmental drivers, Great Barrier Reef, Inshore coral reefs, No-take marine reserves
Copyright Information: © 2023 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC grant CE0561435, ARC grant CE140100020, ARC grant DP190103056
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2024 04:22
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410402 Environmental assessment and monitoring @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180504 Marine biodiversity @ 100%
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