Diversity and Structure of Parrotfish Assemblages across the Northern Great Barrier Reef


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Published in Diversity, January 2019

By Garrett B. Johnson, Brett M. Taylor, William D. Robbins, Erik C. Franklin, Rob Toonen, Brian Bowen, and J. Howard Choat



The structure and dynamics of coral reef environments vary across a range of spatial scales, with patterns of associated faunal assemblages often reflecting this variability. However, delineating drivers of biological variability in such complex environments has proved challenging. Here, we investigated the assemblage structure and diversity of parrotfishes—a common and ecologically important group—across 6 of latitude on the Northern Great Barrier Reef (GBR), Australia. Parrotfish abundance and biomass were determined from stereo-video surveys across 82 sites spanning 31 reefs and assessed against geographic, biophysical, and management-related factors in a multivariate framework to determine major drivers and associated scales of assemblage structure. Large cross-shelf variation in parrotfish assemblages pervaded along the entire Northern GBR, with distinct assemblages associated with sheltered and exposed reefs. Species abundances and diversity generally decreased with decreasing latitude. The gradient of explicit predator biomass associated with management zoning had no effect on parrotfish assemblage structure, but was positively correlated with parrotfish diversity. Our results highlight the ubiquitous presence of cross-shelf variation, where the greatest differences in parrotfish community composition existed between sheltered (inner and mid shelf) and exposed (outer shelf) reef systems. Prior attempts to explain linkages between parrotfishes and fine-scale biophysical factors have demonstrated parrotfishes as habitat generalists, but recent developments in nutritional ecology suggest that their cross-shelf variation on the GBR is likely reflective of benthic resource distribution and species-specific feeding modes.

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