The structure of a nearshore fish community of western australia diel patterns and the habitat role of limestone reefs

Howard, R.K.

Environmental Biology of Fishes 24(2): 93-104


ISSN/ISBN: 0378-1909
DOI: 10.1007/bf00001280
Accession: 007937717

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Extensive limestone reefs are a characteristic feature of much of the coastline of Western Australia, and potentially represent a major habitat feature influencing the structure of the coastal fish community. The structure and temporal dynamics of the fish fauna and its relationships to nearshore patch reefs and surrounding habitat hear Dongara, Western Australia, were examined using (1) diel gill-netting and (2) quantitative rotenone sampling of enclosed areas of substratum. Long-term and day-to-day variabilty of the fauna was low. Dominant species of gill-net collections were either associated with reefs or occurred in similar abundances at both reefs and surrounding sand/seagrass flats. The overall abundance, number of species and biomass of netted fishes was higher around reefs. Rotenone collections of the more sedentary species showed a similar pattern, but suggested, however, that a simple reef versus surrounding sand and seagrass habitat comparison is complicated by the canopy-forming seagrass Amphibolis that occurs on reef tops. Time of day had an important effect on overall fish abundance and number of species, with peaks occurring at crepuscular periods. This reflected dusk and dawn activity peaks of a dominant species rather than overlapping activities of many diurnal and nocturnal species. Diel switches between reef-edge habitat and surrounding sand/seagrass flats were uncommon despite expectations (based on literature examples) that patch reefs would function primarily as sheltering habitats and surrounding non-reef areas act as foraging habitat. High catches at reef-edge sites suggest that the majority of fishes forage on or near limestone patch reefs. Fish densities of around 0.8 individuals per m-2 of bottom on these Western Australian reefs are relatively high in comparison to visual census estimates obtained for temperate reef systems in South Australia and New Zealand, but similar to those obtained using comparable netting methods in temperature Australian seagrass systems.

The structure of a nearshore fish community of western australia diel patterns and the habitat role of limestone reefs