Kim, SW, Sampayo, EM, Sommer, B, Sims, CA, Gómez-Cabrera, MDC, Dalton, SJ, Beger, M, Malcolm, HA, Ferrari, R, Fraser, N, Figueira, WF, Smith, SDA, Heron, SF, Baird, AH, Byrne, M, Eakin, CM, Edgar, R, Hughes, TP, Kyriacou, N, Liu, G, Matis, PA, Skirving, WJ & Pandolfi, JM 2019, 'Refugia under threat: Mass bleaching of coral assemblages in high-latitude eastern Australia.', Global change biology, vol. 25, no. 11, pp. 3918-3931.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Environmental anomalies that trigger adverse physiological responses and mortality are occurring with increasing frequency due to climate change. At species' range peripheries, environmental anomalies are particularly concerning because species often exist at their environmental tolerance limits and may not be able to migrate to escape unfavourable conditions. Here, we investigated the bleaching response and mortality of 14 coral genera across high-latitude eastern Australia during a global heat stress event in 2016. We evaluated whether the severity of assemblage-scale and genus-level bleaching responses was associated with cumulative heat stress and/or local environmental history, including long-term mean temperatures during the hottest month of each year (SSTLTMAX ), and annual fluctuations in water temperature (SSTVAR ) and solar irradiance (PARZVAR ). The most severely-bleached genera included species that were either endemic to the region (Pocillopora aliciae) or rare in the tropics (e.g. Porites heronensis). Pocillopora spp., in particular, showed high rates of immediate mortality. Bleaching severity of Pocillopora was high where SSTLTMAX was low or PARZVAR was high, whereas bleaching severity of Porites was directly associated with cumulative heat stress. While many tropical Acropora species are extremely vulnerable to bleaching, the Acropora species common at high latitudes, such as A. glauca and A. solitaryensis, showed little incidence of bleaching and immediate mortality. Two other regionally-abundant genera, Goniastrea and Turbinaria, were also largely unaffected by the thermal anomaly. The severity of assemblage-scale bleaching responses was poorly explained by the environmental parameters we examined. Instead, the severity of assemblage-scale bleaching was associated with local differences in species abundance and taxon-specific bleaching responses. The marked taxonomic disparity in bleaching severity, coupled with high mortality of high-latitude e...
Matis, PA, Donelson, JM, Bush, S, Fox, RJ & Booth, DJ 2018, 'Temperature influences habitat preference of coral reef fishes: Will generalists become more specialised in a warming ocean?', Global change biology, vol. 24, no. 7, pp. 3158-3169.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Climate change is expected to pose a significant risk to species that exhibit strong behavioural preferences for specific habitat types, with generalist species assumed to be less vulnerable. In this study, we conducted habitat choice experiments to determine how water temperature influences habitat preference for three common species of coral reef damselfish (Pomacentridae) that differ in their levels of habitat specialisation. The lemon damselfish Pomacentrus moluccensis, a habitat specialist, consistently selected complex coral habitat across all temperature treatments (selected based on local average seasonal temperatures naturally experienced in situ: ambient winter 22°C; ambient summer 28°C; and elevated 31°C). Unexpectedly, the neon damselfish Pomacentrus coelestis and scissortail sergeant Abudefduf sexfasciatus, both of which have more generalist habitat associations, developed strong habitat preferences (for complex coral and boulder habitat, respectively) at the elevated temperature treatment (31°C) compared to no single preferred habitat at 22°C or 28°C. The observed shifts in habitat preference with temperature suggest that we may be currently underestimating the vulnerability of some habitat generalists to climate change and highlight that the ongoing loss of complex live coral through coral bleaching could further exacerbate resource overlap and species competition in ways not currently considered in climate change models.
Matis, PA, Figueira, WF, Suthers, IM, Humphries, J, Miskiewicz, AG, Coleman, RA, Kelaher, BP & Taylor, MD 2014, 'Cyclonic entrainment? The icthyoplankton attributes of three major water mass types generated by the separation of the East Australian Current', ICES Journal of Marine Science, vol. Online.View/Download from: Publisher's site
The relationship between larval fish assemblages and coastal oceanography is the basis for much of our understanding of connectivity and productivity of fish populations. Larval fish assemblages were sampled from the upper mixed layer (<50 m depth) at three prominent circulation features [separation of the East Australian Current (EAC), anticyclonic eddy, and cyclonic eddy] off the southeast Australian coast across three bathymetric zones (shelf, slope and ocean) for each feature. The separation of the EAC from the coast at ~32°S was characterized by warmer, less saline water compared with the cyclonic and anticyclonic eddies further to the south (~34 and ~35°S, respectively), which were both characterized by cooler Tasman Sea water and greater fluorescence. The anticyclonic eddy had separated from the EAC three months prior to sampling, which facilitated the movement of a cyclonic eddy from the Tasman Sea westwards to the shelf at ~34°S. The larval assemblage in the EAC had high numbers of fish of the families Labridae and Stomiidae. The cyclonic eddy was characterized by larval clupeids, carangids, scombrids and bothids, indicating recent entrainment of shelf waters and proximity to major spawning regions. In contrast, the anticyclonic eddy had fewer larval fish, with little evidence for entrainment of shelf assemblages into the near-surface waters. Myctophids were found in high abundance across all oceanographic features and bathymetric zones. The evidence of selective entrainment of coastal larval fish into the near-surface waters of a cyclonic eddy compared with a similar anticyclonic eddy indicates a potential offshore nursery ground.