Patterns of distribution and movement of fishes, Ophthalmolepis lineolatus and Hypoplectrodes maccullochi, on temperate rocky reefs of south eastern Australia
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Current ecological models predict that reef fish assemblages will be strongly influenced by habitat type. Here we test hypotheses about habitat types and abundance patterns of temperate reef fishes from broad spatial scales (100 s of km) to small spatial scales of metres to tens of metres. Habitat preferences are also described over long periods of time (22 years) for two abundant taxa. Patterns of distribution and abundance varied over ∼ eight degrees of latitude (29.9–37.5°S) along the coast of New South Wales, Australia. Ophthalmolepis lineolatus (Labridae) preferred kelp and Barrens habitats and juveniles were most abundant in habitats rich in algae. This species also increased in abundance from North to South. In contrast, Hypoplectrodes maccullochi (Serranidae) were usually only found in the Barrens habitat and great variation was found among locations. Both taxa were most abundant on urchin grazed deep reefs (over 10 m deep). Habitat preferences of O. lineolatus and H. maccullochi appeared resistant to major environmental perturbations that included large El Niño events in 1991, 1998 and 2002. Home ranges of O. lineolatus varied from 52 m2 to 1,660 m2 and often overlapped; fish of all sizes were most abundant in algal dominated habitat. Limited movements and small home ranges (2.1–11.6 m2) combined with a strong affiliation for shelter indicated that most H. maccullochi are strongly site-attached. Habitat type is important to these taxonomically different fishes, but to varying degrees where H. maccullochi was more of a habitat specialist than O. lineolatus and would be more vulnerable to perturbations that alter Barrens. Changes in reef habitats will have a great influence on fish assemblages and this should also be considered in coastal planning (e.g. for Marine Protected Areas, MPAs) and the assessments of resistance and resilience of fishes to climate change.
KeywordsLabridae Serranidae Rocky reefs Distribution Habitat usage Movement
Thanks to D. Annese, H. Patterson, T. Dempster, S. Gartenstein and D. Evans for assistance with fieldwork. Constructive criticism was provided by B. Curley, M. Steer, R. Chick and N Turich. We acknowledge Australian Research Council funding to M.J. Kingsford and support from the University of Sydney, M. Byrne and the South Australian Research and Development Institute for support and funding.
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