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Taxonomic composition of mobile epifaunal invertebrate assemblages on diverse benthic microhabitats from temperate to tropical reefs

Anthropogenic drivers are flattening reef structure from 3-dimensional habitats composed of macroalgae and live branching corals towards low-profile turfing algae. Our current understanding of the consequences of widespread reef degradation currently fails to consider the responses of small mobile invertebrates (‘epifauna’) to patterns of change amongst reef structural elements (‘microhabitats’). Here, the taxonomic composition of 152 epifaunal assemblages was compared among 21 structurally diverse benthic microhabitats across an Australian temperate to tropical climatic gradient, spanning 28.6 degrees in latitude from Tasmania to the northern Great Barrier Reef. Epifauna varied consistently with different microhabitat types, and to a much lesser extent with latitude. Macroalgae, live branching coral and turfing algae represented 3 extremes for epifaunal community structure, with most microhabitats possessing epifaunal assemblages intermediate between these endpoints. Amongst structural characteristics, epifauna related primarily to the degree of branching and hardness of microhabitats. Mobile invertebrate communities are likely to transform in predictable ways with the collapse of large erect macroalgae and live coral towards low-lying turf-associated communities.

Funding

Australian Research Council

History

Publication title

Marine Ecology - Progress Series

Volume

640

Pagination

31-43

ISSN

0171-8630

Department/School

Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies

Publisher

Inter-Research

Place of publication

Nordbunte 23, Oldendorf Luhe, Germany, D-21385

Rights statement

© Inter-Research 2020

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Marine biodiversity; Terrestrial biodiversity

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    University Of Tasmania

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