True blue: Temporal and spatial stability of pelagic wildlife at a submarine canyon

J. A.H. Forrest, P. J. Bouchet, S. C. Barley, A. G. McLennan, J. J. Meeuwig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In coastal systems, marine-protected areas (MPAs) have been shown to increase the diversity, abundance, and biomass of wildlife assemblages as well as their resilience to climate change. The effectiveness of pelagic MPAs is less clear, with arguments against their establishment typically based on the highly mobile nature of pelagic taxa. We used mid-water stereo-baited remote underwater video systems (stereo-BRUVS) and spatial predictive models to characterize the pelagic wildlife assemblage at the head of the Perth Canyon, one of the largest submarine canyons in Australia, over a 7-yr period (2013–2019). The total number of unique taxa and mean values of taxonomic richness, abundance, fork length, and biomass demonstrated strong interannual stability, although mean taxonomic richness and abundance were significantly lower in 2018 relative to other years. Seasonal variability was absent in 2016, but in 2018, taxonomic richness and abundance were three times greater in the Austral spring than in the autumn. Some mobile megafauna were only recorded at the Perth Canyon Marine Park (PCMP) in the autumn, suggesting a seasonal component to their occurrence. The fine-scale distribution of pelagic taxa at the canyon head was largely stable over time, with many areas of higher relative probability of presence located outside protected zones. Despite a degree of variability that may relate to the effect of the El Niño Southern Oscillation on the Leeuwin Current, the PCMP assemblage demonstrates a relatively high degree of spatiotemporal stability. Stronger protection of the PCMP (IUCN II or higher) would potentially improve conservation outcomes for many species of pelagic wildlife.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere03423
JournalEcosphere
Volume12
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

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