Effects of reef proximity on the structure of fish assemblages of unconsolidated substrata
Schultz, AL, Malcolm, HA, Bucher, DJ & Smith SDA 2012, 'Effects of reef proximity on the structure of fish assemblages of unconsolidated substrata', PLoS ONE, vol. 7, no. 11, e49437.
Fish assemblages of unconsolidated sedimentary habitats on continental shelves are poorly described when compared to those of hard substrata. This lack of data restricts the objective management of these extensive benthic habitats. In the context of protecting representative areas of all community types, one important question is the nature of the transition from reefal to sedimentary fish assemblages. We addressed this question using Baited Remote Underwater Videos (BRUVs) to assess fish assemblages of sedimentary habitats at six distances from rocky reefs (0, 25, 50, 100, 200, and 400 m) at four sites in subtropical eastern Australia. Distance from reef was important in determining fish assemblage structure, and there was no overlap between reef sites and sedimentary sites 400 m from reef. While there was a gradient in assemblage structure at intermediate distances, this was not consistent across sites. All sites, however, supported a mixed ‘halo’ assemblage comprising both reef and sediment species at sampling stations close to reef. BRUVs used in conjunction with high-resolution bathymetric and backscatter spatial data can resolve differences in assemblage structure at small spatial scales (10s to 100s of metres), and has further application in unconsolidated habitats. Unless a ‘reef halo’ assemblage is being examined, a minimum of 200 m but preferably 400 m distance from any hard substrate is recommended when designing broader-scale assessments of fish assemblages of sedimentary habitats.