Spatial and temporal variation in subtidal molluscan diversity amongst temperate estuarine habitats
Davis, TR, Harasti, D, Kelaher, B & Smith, SDA in press, 'Spatial and temporal variation in subtidal molluscan diversity amongst temperate estuarine habitats', Marine Ecology.
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Effective management of marine ecosystems is enhanced when detailed information on biodiversity is available. Key information to underpin management actions and conservation planning includes relationships between species assemblages and environmental gradients, and information on species distributions. We conducted a subtidal biodiversity assessment of surface-dwelling subtidal molluscs in eight a priori defined habitat types using underwater visual censuses to quantitatively explore relationships between molluscan assemblages, and their correlation with benthic habitats and abiotic variables. In addition, variations in diversity were examined for two key habitat types (areas dominated by Dendronephthya australis and by filter feeders) over a period of 15 months to examine temporal change. We found that molluscs form distinct assemblages within subtidal habitats, but that assemblages within key habitats show inherent temporal variability. Regional (gamma) diversity of molluscs was found to result from a combination of: (i) within habitat alpha diversity, which increased with habitat complexity; (ii) between habitat beta diversity, with significant differences in molluscan assemblages amongst habitats with differing benthic growth, substrate type, and depth; and (iii) temporal beta diversity, with significant changes detected in molluscan assemblages over time. The results demonstrate how habitats and abiotic variables (principally depth and substrate type) combine to contribute to molluscan biodiversity in temperate estuaries, and illustrate the value of these factors as surrogates for surface-dwelling subtidal molluscs in conservation planning.