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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 607:171-186 (2018)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12790

Habitat and seascape patterns drive spatial variability in temperate fish assemblages: implications for marine protected areas

Matthew J. Rees1,2,3,*, Nathan A. Knott4, Andrew R. Davis1

1Centre for Sustainable Ecosystem Solutions and School of Biological Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia
2Fish Thinkers Research Group, 11 Riverleigh Avenue, Gerroa, NSW 2534, Australia
3Australian Institute of Marine Science, Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre (M096), University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia
4NSW Department of Primary Industries, Marine Ecosystem Unit, Fisheries Research, PO Box 89, Huskisson, NSW 2540, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Habitat classes are often used as surrogates to represent or capture species assemblages in the design of spatial conservation strategies, such as multi-use marine protected areas (MPAs). Little research, however, has critically evaluated how well habitat classes can reliably predict species distributions and abundances over scales relevant to spatial planning. In this study, we used hierarchical models to quantify spatial variability in demersal and mid-water fishes at multiple scales to determine whether habitat classes are appropriate surrogates for temperate fishes. Baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVS) and mid-water BRUVS were used to sample fish assemblages in Jervis Bay, NSW, Australia, over rocky reef, seagrass Posidonia australis and unvegetated sediment among locations (>3 km), habitat classes (~400 m) and sites within habitats (~200 m). Each habitat class displayed a distinct assemblage of demersal fish driven by many species and families showing strong habitat associations (e.g. platycephalids and labrids). In contrast, the mid-water fish assemblage and certain demersal families, such as habitat generalists (e.g. sparids), showed no differentiation among habitat class. Considerable variation in the fish assemblage was also observed among locations. Seascape connectivity explained much of this variability, as reefs surrounded by large areas of seagrass harboured a greater abundance and diversity of fishes. Overall, we provide quantitative support for the use of habitat classes as surrogates for most temperate fishes. Spatial planners, however, need to be aware of species-specific relationships with habitat and the importance of seascape patterning when using habitat-based surrogates for MPA design.


KEY WORDS: Fish habitat relationships · Landscape ecology · Temperate fish · Surrogates · Marine protected areas · Marine reserves · BRUVS · Spatial planning · Conservation


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Cite this article as: Rees MJ, Knott NA, Davis AR (2018) Habitat and seascape patterns drive spatial variability in temperate fish assemblages: implications for marine protected areas. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 607:171-186. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12790

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