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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 353:265-273 (2008)  -  DOI:

Habitat as a surrogate measure of reef fish diversity in the zoning of the Lord Howe Island Marine Park, Australia

Malcolm J. Lindsay1,*, Heather M. Patterson1,2, Stephen E. Swearer1

1Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia
2Present address: Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Box 7051, Canberra Business Centre, Australian Capital Territory 2610, Australia

ABSTRACT: Marine reserves are being widely implemented as a tool for fisheries management and biodiversity conservation. Although the siting of marine reserves often includes a surrogate measure of diversity, the precision of these measures is rarely tested. To create the marine park at Lord Howe Island, Australia, the New South Wales Marine Parks Authority used habitat as a surrogate for community diversity. The aims of this study were to test the precision of habitat in predicting reef fish assemblage structure, and to investigate changes in precision when varying resolutions of baseline habitat data were available. To achieve this, visual counts of reef fish species and habitat surveys were conducted at 31 sites around the island. Overall, the variations in fish assemblage among sites were moderately correlated with habitat variations, while fish assemblages were weakly spatially autocorrelated, strongly affecting sites within a proximity of 1 km. This spatial autocorrelation demonstrates that both habitat and geographical data combine for greater surrogate precision than habitat alone at this spatial scale. The ability of habitat classes to predict reef fish assemblage structure was dependent on the quality and quantity of baseline data. Differences in assemblage structure were found among habitat classes derived from detailed high-resolution data, but not among habitat classes defined from low-resolution data. This study highlights the need for accurate in situ ecological information to establish precise habitat surrogates and complementary assemblage information to more effectively site marine reserves. Otherwise, reserves may misrepresent fish diversity and be unsuccessful at long-term conservation of marine biodiversity.

KEY WORDS: Marine reserves · Marine protected areas · Diversity surrogates · Fish diversity · Spatial autocorrelation · Marine conservation

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Cite this article as: Lindsay MJ, Patterson HM, Swearer SE (2008) Habitat as a surrogate measure of reef fish diversity in the zoning of the Lord Howe Island Marine Park, Australia. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 353:265-273.

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