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Depth and benthic habitat influence shallow and mesophotic predatory fishes on a remote, high-latitude coral reef


Brown, K and Monk, J and Williams, J and Carroll, A and Harasti, D and Barrett, N, Depth and benthic habitat influence shallow and mesophotic predatory fishes on a remote, high-latitude coral reef, PLoS ONE, 17, (3) Article e0265067. ISSN 1932-6203 (2022) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

Copyright 2022 Brown et al. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

DOI: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0265067


Predatory fishes on coral reefs continue to decline globally despite playing key roles in ecosystem functioning. Remote atolls and platform reefs provide potential refugia for predator populations, but quantitative information on their spatial distribution is required to establish accurate baselines for ongoing monitoring and conservation management. Current knowledge of predatory fish populations has been derived from targeted shallow diver-based surveys (<15 m). However, the spatial distribution and extent of predatory fishes on outer mesophotic shelf environments has remained under described. Middleton Reef is a remote, high-latitude, oceanic platform reef that is located within a no-take area in the Lord Howe Marine Park off eastern Australia. Here we used baited remote underwater stereo video to sample predatory fishes across lagoon and outer shelf habitats from depths 0100 m, extending knowledge on use of mesophotic depths and habitats. Many predatory fish demonstrated clear depth and habitat associations over this depth range. Carcharhinid sharks and Carangid fishes were the most abundant predators sampled on Middleton Reef, with five predatory fishes accounting for over 90% of the predator fish biomass. Notably, Galapagos shark (Carcharhinus galapagensis) and the protected black rockcod (Epinephelus daemelii) dominated the predator fish assemblage. A higher richness of predator fish species was sampled on reef areas north and south of the lagoon. The more exposed southern aspect of the reef supported a different suite of predator fish across mesophotic habitats relative to the assemblage recorded in the north and lagoonal habitats, a pattern potentially driven by differences in hard coral cover. Biomass of predatory fishes in the more sheltered north habitats was twice that of other areas, predominantly driven by high abundances of Galapagos shark. This work adds to the growing body of literature highlighting the conservation value of isolated oceanic reefs and the need to ensure that lagoon, shallow and mesophotic habitats in these systems are adequately protected, as they support vulnerable ecologically and economically important predator fish assemblages.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Elizabeth Middleton Reef, Lord Howe, coral, fish, black cod, Galapagos shark, BRUV, biodiversity
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Marine systems and management
Objective Field:Rehabilitation or conservation of marine environments
UTAS Author:Brown, K (Ms Kristy Brown)
UTAS Author:Monk, J (Dr Jacquomo Monk)
UTAS Author:Williams, J (Dr Joel Williams)
UTAS Author:Barrett, N (Associate Professor Neville Barrett)
ID Code:149409
Year Published:2022
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2022-03-29
Last Modified:2022-10-19
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