Marine Biology

, Volume 161, Issue 8, pp 1799–1808 | Cite as

Long-term trends in invertebrate–habitat relationships under protected and fished conditions

  • Timothy J. AlexanderEmail author
  • Craig R. Johnson
  • Malcolm Haddon
  • Neville S. Barrett
  • Graham J. Edgar
Original Paper


Few studies examine the long-term effects of changing predator size and abundance on the habitat associations of resident organisms despite that this knowledge is critical to understand the ecosystem effects of fishing. Marine reserves offer the opportunity to determine ecosystem-level effects of manipulated predator densities, while parallel monitoring of adjacent fished areas allows separating these effects from regional-scale change. Relationships between two measures of benthic habitat structure (reef architecture and topographic complexity) and key invertebrate species were followed over 17 years at fished and protected subtidal rocky reefs associated with two southern Australian marine reserves. Two commercially harvested species, the southern rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii) and blacklip abalone (Haliotis rubra) were initially weakly associated with habitat structure across all fished and protected sites. The strength of association with habitat for both species increased markedly at protected sites 2 years after marine reserve declaration, and then gradually weakened over subsequent years. The increasing size of rock lobster within reserves apparently reduced their dependency on reef shelters as refuges from predation. Rising predation by fish and rock lobster in the reserves corresponded with weakening invertebrate–habitat relationships for H. rubra and sea urchins (Heliocidaris erythrogramma). These results emphasise that animal–habitat relationships are not necessarily stable through time and highlight the value of marine reserves as reference sites. Our work shows that fishery closures to enhance populations of commercially important and keystone species should be in areas with a range of habitat features to accommodate shifting ecological requirements with ontogenesis.


Habitat Structure Topographic Complexity Marine Reserve Rocky Reef Protected Site 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was supported by funding from the Australian Research Council. TJA was supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award and a Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation/University of Tasmania scholarship in Quantitative Marine Science. The manuscript was improved through constructive comments from two anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy J. Alexander
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Craig R. Johnson
    • 1
  • Malcolm Haddon
    • 4
  • Neville S. Barrett
    • 1
  • Graham J. Edgar
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Marine and Antarctic StudiesUniversity of TasmaniaTasmaniaAustralia
  2. 2.Division of Aquatic Ecology and Evolution, Institute of Ecology and EvolutionUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Fish Ecology and Evolution, Centre of Ecology, Evolution and BiogeochemistryEAWAG Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and TechnologyKastanienbaumSwitzerland
  4. 4.CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric ResearchHobart TasmaniaAustralia

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