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Species diversity, abundance, biomass, size and trophic structure of fish on coral reefs in relation to shark abundance

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dc.contributor Australian Institute Of Marine Science
dc.contributor University Of Western Australia
dc.contributor Australian Inst Marine Sci
dc.contributor Oceans Inst
dc.contributor Sch Anim Biol
dc.contributor Univ Western Australia MEEUWIG, JESSICA J. BARLEY, SHANTA C. MEEKAN, MARK G. 2017-04-12T06:06:53Z 2017-04-12T06:06:53Z 2019-07-08T02:16:31Z 2017-04-12T06:06:53Z 2017-04-12T06:06:53Z 2019-07-08T02:16:31Z 2017-02-17
dc.identifier.citation Barley SC, Meekan MG, Meeuwig JJ (2017) Species diversity, abundance, biomass, size and trophic structure of fish on coral reefs in relation to shark abundance. Marine Ecology Progress Series 565: 163-179
dc.identifier.issn 0171-8630
dc.description.abstract Theory predicts that loss of gape-limited sharks should lead to increases in the abundance and biomass of smaller size classes of prey. We used stereo-baited remote underwater video stations (stereo-BRUVS) and stereo diver-operated video systems (stereo-DOVS) to characterise the shark and fish assemblages on 2 remote, atoll-like reef systems in northwestern Australia, the Rowley Shoals and the Scott Reefs. Whereas the Rowley Shoals is a marine protected area, sharks have been removed from the Scott Reefs for over 3 centuries. We found that sharks were significantly more diverse, more abundant, larger in size and greater in biomass in the marine reserve relative to the Scott Reefs. Consistent with a priori hypotheses, bony fishes displayed greater species diversity, abundance and biomass where sharks were common relative to the predator-depleted location. The size and trophic structure of bony fish assemblages also differed between locations. Our results provide large-scale evidence consistent with the hypothesis that reef-associated sharks are gape-limited trophic omnivores that impose top-down effects on medium sized (<50 cm), low- to mid-trophic level fishes. On stereo-BRUVS, for example, prey in the 0 to 29.99 cm size class had 203% more biomass at the predator-depleted reef relative to the location where sharks were abundant. As body size is an important determinant of ecological role and fitness in fishes, these findings suggest that the rapid and ongoing loss of sharks from reefs globally may have important implications for reef management and investigations into the effect of fishing on reef systems.
dc.description.sponsorship We thank the University of Western Australia (UWA), Perth, which partly funded this research via an International Postgraduate Research Scholarship and the Australian Institute of Marine Science. We also thank the Department of Fisheries, the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) and the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities for arranging permits to conduct research at the Scott Reefs and the Rowley Shoals. Thank you also to the crew on board the RV 'Solander'. This research was permitted under UWA Ethics Approvals: RA3/100/1279, RA3/100/1172.
dc.language English
dc.subject Connectivity
dc.subject Herbivores
dc.subject Food Web
dc.subject Environmental Sciences & Ecology
dc.subject Ecosystems
dc.subject Islands
dc.subject Mesopredators
dc.subject Marine & Freshwater Biology
dc.subject Protection
dc.subject Natural Experiments
dc.subject Cascades
dc.subject Carcharhinus-amblyrhynchos
dc.subject Apex Predator
dc.subject Ecology
dc.subject Assemblages
dc.subject Lethal Effects
dc.subject Predators
dc.subject Body-size
dc.subject Communities
dc.subject Oceanography
dc.title Species diversity, abundance, biomass, size and trophic structure of fish on coral reefs in relation to shark abundance
dc.type journal article
dc.identifier.doi 10.3354/meps11981
dc.identifier.wos WOS:000396051700011

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