MEPS 570:203-211 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12115

Habitat type and beach exposure shape fish assemblages in the surf zones of ocean beaches

Hayden P. Borland1, Thomas A. Schlacher1, Ben L. Gilby1, Rod M. Connolly2, Nicholas A. Yabsley1, Andrew D. Olds1,*

1School of Science and Engineering, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, QLD 4558, Australia
2Australian Rivers Institute-Coasts & Estuaries, and School of Environment, Griffith University, Gold Coast, QLD 4222, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The surf zones of ocean beaches are prime fishing sites and provide habitat for a diversity of fish species. The spatial composition of seascapes shapes fish abundance and diversity in most coastal ecosystems, but it remains untested whether seascape effects operate on ocean beaches. This study used the surf zones of sandy beaches in eastern Australia as a model system to contrast fish assemblages between the 2 main surf habitats (nearshore troughs and offshore bars), and test how habitat partitioning changes with beach exposure, wave conditions, seascape connectivity (i.e. proximity to estuaries and rocky headlands) and tide. Fish were sampled with baited remote underwater video stations from the surf zones of 18 sandy beaches in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. Habitat type and beach exposure combined to shape fish abundance and diversity in the surf. Fish assemblages always differed between nearshore trough and offshore bar habitats; beach exposure was also important to surf fishes but did not alter the priority effects of habitat partitioning. Beach exposure is an important predictor of faunal assemblages on ocean beaches and is often used as a surrogate in conservation planning. Our results show, however, that surf zones are not single uniform spatial units but are composed of topographically and hydrodynamically distinct habitats that support correspondingly distinct fish assemblages. Because fishing effort also differs between surf habitats, fisheries management and spatial conservation planning need to reflect these spatial nuances in the surf zones of ocean beaches.


KEY WORDS: Surf zone · Fish · Habitat · Exposure · Ocean beach · Coastal conservation planning


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Cite this article as: Borland HP, Schlacher TA, Gilby BL, Connolly RM, Yabsley NA, Olds AD (2017) Habitat type and beach exposure shape fish assemblages in the surf zones of ocean beaches. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 570:203-211. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12115

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