Habitat complexity plays a critical role in shaping biotic assemblages and ecosystem processes. While the impacts of large differences in habitat complexity are often well understood, we know less about how subtle differences in structure affect key ecosystem functions or properties such as biodiversity and biomass. The late-successional seagrass Posidonia australis creates vital habitat for diverse fauna in temperate Australia. Long-term human impacts have led to the decline of P. australis in some estuaries of eastern Australia, where it is now classified as an endangered ecological community. We examined the influence of P. australis structural complexity at small (seagrass density) and large (meadow fragmentation) spatial scales on fish and epifauna communities, predation and sediment erosion. Fine-scale spatially balanced sampling was evenly distributed across a suite of environmental covariates within six estuaries in eastern Australia using the Generalised Random Tessellation Structures approach. We found reduced erosion in areas with higher P. australis density, greater abundance of fish in more fragmented areas and higher fish richness in vegetated areas further from patch edges. The abundance of epifauna and fish, and fish species richness were higher in areas with lower seagrass density (seagrass density did not correlate with distance to patch edge). These findings can inform seagrass restoration efforts by identifying meadow characteristics that influence ecological functions and processes.
|Publication status||Published - Feb 2023|