Biogeographical and cross-shelf patterns of reef fish assemblages in a transition zone

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Malcolm, HA, Jordan, A & Smith, SDA 2010, 'Biogeographical and cross-shelf patterns of reef fish assemblages in a transition zone', Marine Biodiversity, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 181-193.

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Transition zones have complex patterns of biogeography and biodiversity which require consideration in conservation planning. Cross-shelf patterns of reef fish assemblage structure and biogeographic representation were determined for the Solitary Islands Marine Park (SIMP), positioned in a tropical-temperate overlap on the east coast of Australia. Sixty-eight sites were surveyed on shallow (<25 m) reefs across an inshore–offshore gradient, using timed counts. Tropical taxa were most prevalent, comprising 50% of the 254 species recorded. Australian endemics accounted for 23% of species, with east coast endemics (14%) predominating. There was a strong cross-shelf gradient, with species richness increasing offshore. There was also a distinct biogeographical gradient with the proportion of temperate species decreasing and tropical species increasing with increasing distance from shore. This gradient was similar for endemic and cosmopolitan species as many of the endemics were temperate or subtropical, and many of the tropical species were widespread Indo-Pacific taxa. These patterns are consistent with sites further offshore being more frequently exposed to the tropical East Australian Current (EAC). Patterns on reefs further inshore are consistent with the high levels of endemism previously reported for temperate and subtropical Australian waters. The complex cross-shelf arrangement of tropical, subtropical and temperate species results in high regional biodiversity and needs to be recognised in marine-park planning.

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