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The role of habitat complexity in shaping the size structure of a temperate reef fish community


Trebilco, R and Dulvy, NK and Stewart, H and Salomon, AK, The role of habitat complexity in shaping the size structure of a temperate reef fish community, Marine Ecology - Progress Series, 532 pp. 197-211. ISSN 0171-8630 (2015) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Inter-Research 2015

DOI: doi:10.3354/meps11330


Understanding how habitat complexity shapes fish communities is necessary to predict the consequences of future habitat change. On temperate rocky reefs, the presence and characteristics of canopy-forming kelps and the architectural complexity, or rugosity, of the underlying rocky substratum are foundational elements of habitat complexity. However, it is not yet clear how these factors shape the size structure of rocky-reef-associated fish communities. Here, we use biomass spectrum models to evaluate how fish community size structure in high-latitude rocky-reef kelp forests is shaped by substratum rugosity and the degree of closure and density of the kelp canopy. We found that the presence of a closed kelp canopy was associated with an average 75% increase in overall fish biomass compared to open-canopy reefs. Furthermore, on the highest rugosity reefs, the biomass of small fishes (32−64 g) was 800% higher than on the lowest-rugosity reefs, while large fish (1−2 kg) biomass was 60% lower. Consequently, biomass was more evenly distributed across body-size classes on high-rugosity reefs. By decomposing the biomass spectrum into total biomass and mean individual body mass, we found that higher kelp stipe densities also tended to be associated with larger fishes, but this effect was outweighed by the tendency for more small-bodied fishes with increasing rugosity. This study demonstrates how size-based analyses can give new insights into the ecology of temperate reef communities, and may be useful for tracking changes in kelp-associated assemblages in the coming decades with the maturation of marine protected areas, the recovery of sea otter populations, and the changing climate.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:biomass size spectra, community ecology, kelp forest, coral reef, ecosystem baseline, energy flow, foundation species
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems
UTAS Author:Trebilco, R (Dr Rowan Trebilco)
ID Code:101961
Year Published:2015
Web of Science® Times Cited:26
Deposited By:CRC-Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems
Deposited On:2015-07-21
Last Modified:2017-11-06

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