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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 640:31-43 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13295

Taxonomic composition of mobile epifaunal invertebrate assemblages on diverse benthic microhabitats from temperate to tropical reefs

K. M. Fraser*, R. D. Stuart-Smith, S. D. Ling, F. J. Heather, G. J. Edgar

Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Taroona, TAS 7053, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Anthropogenic drivers are flattening reef structure from 3-dimensional habitats composed of macroalgae and live branching corals towards low-profile turfing algae. Our current understanding of the consequences of widespread reef degradation currently fails to consider the responses of small mobile invertebrates (‘epifauna’) to patterns of change amongst reef structural elements (‘microhabitats’). Here, the taxonomic composition of 152 epifaunal assemblages was compared among 21 structurally diverse benthic microhabitats across an Australian temperate to tropical climatic gradient, spanning 28.6 degrees in latitude from Tasmania to the northern Great Barrier Reef. Epifauna varied consistently with different microhabitat types, and to a much lesser extent with latitude. Macroalgae, live branching coral and turfing algae represented 3 extremes for epifaunal community structure, with most microhabitats possessing epifaunal assemblages intermediate between these endpoints. Amongst structural characteristics, epifauna related primarily to the degree of branching and hardness of microhabitats. Mobile invertebrate communities are likely to transform in predictable ways with the collapse of large erect macroalgae and live coral towards low-lying turf-associated communities.


KEY WORDS: Macrofauna · Habitat structure · Coral · Macroalgae · Turf


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Cite this article as: Fraser KM, Stuart-Smith RD, Ling SD, Heather FJ, Edgar GJ (2020) Taxonomic composition of mobile epifaunal invertebrate assemblages on diverse benthic microhabitats from temperate to tropical reefs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 640:31-43. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13295

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