Marine Biology

, 165:94 | Cite as

Latitudinal gradients of dispersal and niche processes mediating neutral assembly of marine fish communities

  • Benjamin M. Ford
  • J. Dale Roberts
Original paper


Elucidating the relative importance of niche and neutral processes in structuring ecological communities is a major goal of ecology. We considered multiple components of community structure (beta diversity, species abundance distributions, and niche specialisation) and spatial scales to identify the processes structuring marine fish communities along a tropical to temperate gradient. Beta diversity was explained by local scale environmental and spatial variables, with geographic distance and environmental gradients being stronger drivers of species turnover in tropical and temperate study areas, respectively. Species abundance distributions found a significant component of community structure in all regions to not differ from that expected by chance. Niche specialisation was more prevalent among the endemic, temperate fish species than in tropical fishes. Our results support a strong neutral component of marine fish community assembly, regardless of bioregion. A change in importance from dispersal limitation to niche filtering processes was found from tropical to temperate communities, superimposed over neutrally assembled marine fish communities.



Data from Esperance, Bremer Bay, Albany, Rottnest Island, and Jurien and the Abrolhos Islands were collected through funding provided by an Australian and Western Australian Government Natural Heritage Trust Strategic Project, ‘Securing Western Australia’s Marine Futures’. We thank South Coast Natural Resource Management for access to the data and the staff of the Marine Futures team who collected the data. Dampier data was collected for Woodside Energy, who is thanked for access to this data. Ben Fitzpatrick is thanked for providing the Ningaloo data, Jock Clough is thanked for providing the Shark Bay data, and Helen Shortland-Jones is thanked for collating the data. Bronte Van Helden is thanked for comments on a draft.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted.

Supplementary material

227_2018_3356_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1219 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource ManagementUniversity of Western AustraliaAlbanyAustralia

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