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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 417:83-95 (2010)  -  DOI:

Quantifying wave exposure in shallow temperate reef systems: applicability of fetch models for predicting algal biodiversity

Nicole A. Hill1,*, Austen R. Pepper1, 4, Marji L. Puotinen2, 5, Michael G. Hughes3, 6, Graham J. Edgar1, Neville S. Barrett1, Rick D. Stuart-Smith1, Rebecca Leaper1

1Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 49, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia
2Institute for Conservation Biology and Environmental Management and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales 2522, Australia
3Marine & Coastal Environment Group, Geoscience Australia, GPO Box 378, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia
4Present address: New South Wales State Emergency Service, Level 3, 6 – 8 Regent Street, Wollongong, New South Wales 2500, Australia
5Present address: School of Earth Sciences, The Ohio State University, 125 South Oval Mall, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA
6Present address: School of Geosciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia

ABSTRACT: Management and conservation of ecosystems relies on biodiversity data; however, broad-scale biological data are often limited. Predictive modelling using environmental variables has recently proven a valuable tool in addressing this gap. Wave exposure is a particularly important environmental variable that structures shallow reef systems, but it is rarely quantified across the large areas often used for predictive studies. Therefore, we investigated approaches that quantify exposure and can be readily applied across a large area. We generated 6 quantitative indices that emphasise different aspects of exposure using a numerical wave model and cartographic fetch models. The utility of these indices for predictive modelling in shallow temperate reef systems was assessed by how well they explained community and genera-level algal patterns in Tasmania, Australia, which is a region that experiences a wide range of wave exposure conditions. Exposure indices were significant predictors of algal patterns, explaining up to 18% of community level patterns and up to 37% of the variance associated with the occurrence and cover of algal genera. Fetch-based indices in particular appear to be a viable option for quantifying exposure on shallow reefs. These indices can be generated within a Geographic Information System (GIS) program for specific sites of interest, along coastlines or on a grid, and are potentially accessible to ecologists. Quantification of exposure across broad regions using fetch indices will allow ecologists to makes advances in predictive modelling studies, but also facilitate studies that test the generality of hypotheses and mechanisms driving patterns previously observed using qualitative measures.

KEY WORDS: Wave exposure index · Cartographic fetch modelling · Macro-algae · Biodiversity · Predictive models

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Cite this article as: Hill NA, Pepper AR, Puotinen ML, Hughes MG and others (2010) Quantifying wave exposure in shallow temperate reef systems: applicability of fetch models for predicting algal biodiversity. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 417:83-95.

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