Temporal stability in a protected and isolated fish community within marine parks surrounding Lord Howe Island
Regional Studies in Marine Science
Remote oceanic islands often display high levels of biodiversity and endemism, making them important locations for marine parks aimed at conserving biodiversity. To determine whether marine parks are reaching conservation objectives requires consistent assessments of their effectiveness through time. Lord Howe Island and Balls Pyramid are World Heritage listed remote oceanic islands in the Tasman Sea that support a diverse assemblage of fishes including many endemic and protected species. To conserve the region's unique marine biodiversity, state and Commonwealth marine parks including no-take zones and partially protected zones open to line fishing were established. After approximately 5, 9 and 13 years of protection of shelf habitat we tested for changes in the marine park's fish assemblage across management zones through time using baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVs). We detected no difference in total fish abundance, diversity, or assemblage composition between management zone types. The relative abundance of targeted carangids, yellowtail kingfish and silver trevally were 2 and 1.6 times greater in no-take zones than partially protected zones respectively, however, the substantial variation in their abundances among locations and sites meant that these differences were not statistically significant. No clear difference in the relative abundance of endemic, near-endemic and protected species were observed between management zone types. Generally, the abundance and diversity of fishes varied most among locations, sites and sampling years. The overall lack of difference in the fish assemblage between management zone types and its stability through time suggests current anthropogenic threats are relatively minor, and the marine park's condition is reasonably healthy. Future surveys of the marine park's fish assemblage will be valuable to test for body-size differences between zone types and to monitor trends in condition, particularly in response to possible changes in the number, frequency and intensity of anthropogenic threats.
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