Seasonal changes in habitat structure underpin shifts in macroalgae-associated tropical fish communities

Shaun Wilson, C.J. Fulton, Martial Depczynski, Thomas Holmes, M.M. Noble, Ben Radford, P. Tinkler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


© 2014, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. Habitat shifts play an important role in structuring faunal assemblages; however, research has focused on the influence of random disturbance events and information on how regular seasonal changes to habitat affect marine fauna remains largely unexplored, especially in the tropics. We recorded seasonal changes in the structure of tropical macroalgae fields within the Ningaloo lagoon (Western Australia) and related this to the density, biomass and species richness of fishes that represent key processes: juveniles, predators of juveniles and herbivores. The extent and direction of seasonal changes in macroalgae were inconsistent among sites, creating a highly dynamic habitat matrix across time and space. Species richness and density of fishes were largely maintained where density of holdfasts from canopy-forming macroalgae and/or cover was high across seasons, but shifted markedly in areas of macroalgae habitat loss: suggesting stable habitat structure is critical for the persistence of macroalgae-associated fishes. Our results demonstrate that macroalgae fields that maintain high structural complexity across different seasons are more likely to preserve key ecological processes and therefore warrant greater conservation attention within a spatial management framework.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2597-2607
Number of pages11
JournalMarine Biology
Issue number11
Early online date31 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


Dive into the research topics of 'Seasonal changes in habitat structure underpin shifts in macroalgae-associated tropical fish communities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this