Submerged oceanic shoals of north Western Australia are a major reservoir of marine biodiversity

Cordelia Moore, Mike Cappo, Ben Radford, Andrew Heyward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

This paper provides a first assessment of fish communities associated with the submerged oceanic banks and shoals in north-west Australia. Until recently, little was known about these deeper and more inaccessible reefs. The mesophotic coral-reef habitats (20–80 m) were a major reservoir of marine biodiversity, with unique and exceptionally high fish diversity and abundance. Species richness in the study region was 1.4 times, and abundance almost twice, that recorded for similar mesophotic habitats on the Great Barrier Reef in north-east Australia. A review of the published literature revealed that Australia’s NW oceanic shoals support the highest fish species richness reported for mesophotic reefs to date. We made regional comparisons of fish community structure (species composition, richness and abundance) and assessed the influence of depth, substrate and location. The presence of consolidated calcareous reef, depth and aspect (a surrogate for exposure) had the greatest influence on species richness. In contrast, aspect and the presence of benthic biota had the greatest influence on fish abundance. Sites most exposed to the prevailing currents (facing north-east) had lowest fish abundance, while highest abundances were recorded on moderately exposed sites (along the north-west and south-east edges). The most abundant species were small (Pomacentrus coelestis) and large (Naso hexacanthus) planktivorous fish. Currently, 29.3% of NE Australia mesophotic reefs are within no-take management zones of the Great Barrier Reef. In contrast, just 1.3% of the NW oceanic shoals are designated as no-take areas. The location and extent of mesophotic reefs remain poorly quantified globally. Because these habitats support significant biodiversity and have the potential to act as important refugia, understanding their extent is critical to maintaining coral-reef biodiversity and resilience and supporting sustainable management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)719-734
Number of pages16
JournalCoral Reefs
Volume36
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017

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Western Australia
reefs
biodiversity
reef
fish
species diversity
Great Barrier Reef
coral reefs
species richness
habitats
barrier reef
Naso
coral reef
habitat
refuge habitats
community structure
refugium
biota
organisms
substrate

Cite this

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title = "Submerged oceanic shoals of north Western Australia are a major reservoir of marine biodiversity",
abstract = "This paper provides a first assessment of fish communities associated with the submerged oceanic banks and shoals in north-west Australia. Until recently, little was known about these deeper and more inaccessible reefs. The mesophotic coral-reef habitats (20–80 m) were a major reservoir of marine biodiversity, with unique and exceptionally high fish diversity and abundance. Species richness in the study region was 1.4 times, and abundance almost twice, that recorded for similar mesophotic habitats on the Great Barrier Reef in north-east Australia. A review of the published literature revealed that Australia’s NW oceanic shoals support the highest fish species richness reported for mesophotic reefs to date. We made regional comparisons of fish community structure (species composition, richness and abundance) and assessed the influence of depth, substrate and location. The presence of consolidated calcareous reef, depth and aspect (a surrogate for exposure) had the greatest influence on species richness. In contrast, aspect and the presence of benthic biota had the greatest influence on fish abundance. Sites most exposed to the prevailing currents (facing north-east) had lowest fish abundance, while highest abundances were recorded on moderately exposed sites (along the north-west and south-east edges). The most abundant species were small (Pomacentrus coelestis) and large (Naso hexacanthus) planktivorous fish. Currently, 29.3{\%} of NE Australia mesophotic reefs are within no-take management zones of the Great Barrier Reef. In contrast, just 1.3{\%} of the NW oceanic shoals are designated as no-take areas. The location and extent of mesophotic reefs remain poorly quantified globally. Because these habitats support significant biodiversity and have the potential to act as important refugia, understanding their extent is critical to maintaining coral-reef biodiversity and resilience and supporting sustainable management.",
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Submerged oceanic shoals of north Western Australia are a major reservoir of marine biodiversity. / Moore, Cordelia; Cappo, Mike; Radford, Ben; Heyward, Andrew.

In: Coral Reefs, Vol. 36, No. 3, 09.2017, p. 719-734.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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T1 - Submerged oceanic shoals of north Western Australia are a major reservoir of marine biodiversity

AU - Moore, Cordelia

AU - Cappo, Mike

AU - Radford, Ben

AU - Heyward, Andrew

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AB - This paper provides a first assessment of fish communities associated with the submerged oceanic banks and shoals in north-west Australia. Until recently, little was known about these deeper and more inaccessible reefs. The mesophotic coral-reef habitats (20–80 m) were a major reservoir of marine biodiversity, with unique and exceptionally high fish diversity and abundance. Species richness in the study region was 1.4 times, and abundance almost twice, that recorded for similar mesophotic habitats on the Great Barrier Reef in north-east Australia. A review of the published literature revealed that Australia’s NW oceanic shoals support the highest fish species richness reported for mesophotic reefs to date. We made regional comparisons of fish community structure (species composition, richness and abundance) and assessed the influence of depth, substrate and location. The presence of consolidated calcareous reef, depth and aspect (a surrogate for exposure) had the greatest influence on species richness. In contrast, aspect and the presence of benthic biota had the greatest influence on fish abundance. Sites most exposed to the prevailing currents (facing north-east) had lowest fish abundance, while highest abundances were recorded on moderately exposed sites (along the north-west and south-east edges). The most abundant species were small (Pomacentrus coelestis) and large (Naso hexacanthus) planktivorous fish. Currently, 29.3% of NE Australia mesophotic reefs are within no-take management zones of the Great Barrier Reef. In contrast, just 1.3% of the NW oceanic shoals are designated as no-take areas. The location and extent of mesophotic reefs remain poorly quantified globally. Because these habitats support significant biodiversity and have the potential to act as important refugia, understanding their extent is critical to maintaining coral-reef biodiversity and resilience and supporting sustainable management.

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KW - Mesophotic coral reefs

KW - Oceanic shoals

KW - Offshore fish assemblages

KW - Timor Sea

KW - Western Australia

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