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Filling the gaps: predicting the distribution of temperate reef biota using high resolution biological and acoustic data

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 01:54 authored by Nicole HillNicole Hill, Vanessa LucieerVanessa Lucieer, Neville BarrettNeville Barrett, Anderson, TJ, Williams, SB
Management of the marine environment is often hampered by a lack of comprehensive spatial information on the distribution of diversity and the bio-physical processes structuring regional ecosystems. This is particularly true in temperate reef systems beyond depths easily accessible to divers. Yet these systems harbor a diversity of sessile life that provide essential ecosystem services, sustain fisheries and, as with shallower ecosystems, are also increasingly vulnerable to anthropogenic impacts and environmental change. Here we use cutting-edge tools (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles and ship-borne acoustics) and analytical approaches (predictive modelling) to quantify and map these highly productive ecosystems. We find the occurrence of key temperate-reef biota can be explained and predicted using standard (depth) and novel (texture) surrogates derived from multibeam acoustic data, and geographic surrogates. This suggests that combinations of fine-scale processes, such as light limitation and habitat complexity, and broad-scale processes, such as regional currents and exposure regimes, are important in structuring these diverse deep-reef communities. While some dominant habitat forming biota, including canopy algae, were widely distributed, others, including gorgonians and sea whips, exhibited patchy and restricted distributions across the reef system. In addition to providing the first quantitative and full coverage maps of reef diversity for this area, our modelling revealed that offshore reefs represented a regional diversity hotspot that is of high ecological and conservation value. Regional reef systems should not, therefore, be considered homogenous units in conservation planning and management. Full-coverage maps of the predicted distribution of biota (and associated uncertainty) are likely to be increasingly valuable, not only for conservation planning, but in the ongoing management and monitoring of these less-accessible ecosystems.


Publication title

Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Academic Press Ltd Elsevier Science Ltd

Place of publication

24-28 Oval Rd, London, England, Nw1 7Dx

Rights statement

Copyright 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Marine biodiversity

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