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New opportunities for conservation of handfishes (Family Brachionichthyidae) and other inconspicuous and threatened marine species through citizen science


Edgar, GJ and Stuart-Smith, RD and Cooper, A and Jacques, M and Valentine, J, New opportunities for conservation of handfishes (Family Brachionichthyidae) and other inconspicuous and threatened marine species through citizen science, Biological Conservation, 208 pp. 174-182. ISSN 0006-3207 (2017) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

© 2016 Elsevier

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2016.07.028


Volunteer divers participating in the Reef Life Survey (RLS) program actively assist species conservation efforts by generating data for threat assessments and population trend monitoring, through in-water restoration efforts, and through outreach of marine conservation messages. Up to 2014, standardised underwater visual survey data provided by RLS divers described densities of 495 cryptic fish species at over 1200 sites distributed around Australia. Each species was recorded on 34 separate transect blocks on average, allowing the first assessments of population trends for many species. These data highlight the threatened and data deficient status of endemic Australian handfish species. At least five shallow-water handfish species are potentially threatened, including the smooth handfish Sympterichthys unipennis, which has not been sighted for over 200 years, but is yet to be included on any threatened species list. RLS divers undertook directed searches at key historical locations for two handfish species, the red handfish Thymichthys politus, now only known from a single reef, and Ziebell's handfish Brachiopsilus ziebelli, with no confirmed sighting for over a decade. From a total of 100 h of underwater search effort, only four red handfish were recorded, all at a site threatened by adjacent human activity. These and other handfish species should be considered for inclusion on the IUCN Red List given that populations are either very small or have vanished, spawning substrates have probably declined, and the species lack a larval dispersal stage. More importantly, the absence of information on the conservation status of the majority of marine species needs urgent attention, including through expanded citizen science efforts, if management intervention is to occur and extinctions minimised.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Reef Life Survey, marine biodiversity, citizen science, Tasmania, population monitoring, state-of-the-environment reporting, underwater visual census
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:Edgar, GJ (Professor Graham Edgar)
UTAS Author:Stuart-Smith, RD (Dr Rick Stuart-Smith)
UTAS Author:Cooper, A (Miss Antonia Cooper)
ID Code:110749
Year Published:2017
Web of Science® Times Cited:14
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2016-08-11
Last Modified:2018-03-27

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