Degree Name

Master of Science - Research


School of Biological Science


Seabed habitat mapping has become a popular precursor to Marine Protected Area (MPA) design. Data acquired through habitat mapping is used as a surrogate measure for biodiversity, therefore simplifying the planning process for more effective reserves. The problem with this method is that it assumes areas with similar habitat variable measures will support the same species. Here, with the use of data acquired with an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), I report that habitat variables in temperate rocky reefs off the east coast of Australia can be successful predictors of sessile invertebrate species richness and relative abundance. Temperate rocky reefs at approximately 30 metres depth within Batemans Marine Park were surveyed for this study. The best model for predicting species richness and relative abundance was composed of bathymetric variance and aspect. Together these variables explained 31% of the variation in sessile invertebrate species richness and 50% of the variation in relative abundance. Assemblages within rocky reefs differed at all scales investigated (kilometres), but most significantly at the smallest scale. The conservation implications of these findings suggest that several rocky reefs must be protected as assemblages varied significantly among them. This study provides future researchers with information on patterns of distribution required to understand the processes that drive change in sessile invertebrate assemblages. Understanding the spatial scale at which assemblages vary is the first step towards predictive models that will greatly benefit MPA design in the future.