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Wave exposure as a predictor of benthic habitat distribution on high energy temperate reefs

Rattray, Alex, Ierodiaconou, Daniel and Womersley, Tim 2015, Wave exposure as a predictor of benthic habitat distribution on high energy temperate reefs, Frontiers in marine science, vol. 2, Article Number : 8, pp. 1-15, doi: 10.3389/fmars.2015.00008.

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Title Wave exposure as a predictor of benthic habitat distribution on high energy temperate reefs
Author(s) Rattray, Alex
Ierodiaconou, Daniel
Womersley, Tim
Journal name Frontiers in marine science
Volume number 2
Season Article Number : 8
Start page 1
End page 15
Total pages 15
Publisher Frontiers Research Foundation
Place of publication Lausanne, Switzerland
Publication date 2015-02
ISSN 2296-7745
Keyword(s) habitat mapping
multibeam sonar
remote sensing
hydrodynamic modeling
video survey
random forests
Summary The new found ability to measure physical attributes of the marine environment at high resolution across broad spatial scales has driven the rapid evolution of benthic habitat mapping as a field in its own right. Improvement of the resolution and ecological validity of seafloor habitat distribution models has, for the most part, paralleled developments in new generations of acoustic survey tools such as multibeam echosounders. While sonar methods have been well demonstrated to provide useful proxies of the relatively static geophysical patterns that reflect distribution of benthic species and assemblages, the spatially and temporally variable influence of hydrodynamic energy on habitat distribution have been less well studied. Here we investigate the role of wave exposure on patterns of distribution of near-shore benthic habitats. A high resolution spectral wave model was developed for a 624 km2 site along Cape Otway, a major coastal feature of western Victoria, Australia. Comparison of habitat classifications implemented using the Random Forests algorithm established that significantly more accurate estimations of habitat distribution were obtained by including a fine-scale numerical wave model, extended to the seabed using linear wave theory, than by using depth and seafloor morphology information alone. Variable importance measures and map interpretation indicated that the spatial variation in wave-induced bottom orbital velocity was most influential in discriminating habitat classes containing the canopy forming kelp Ecklonia radiata, a foundation kelp species that affects biodiversity and ecological functioning on shallow reefs across temperate Australasia. We demonstrate that hydrodynamic models reflecting key environmental drivers on wave-exposed coastlines are important in accurately defining distributions of benthic habitats. This study highlights the suitability of exposure measures for predictive habitat modeling on wave-exposed coastlines and provides a basis for continuing work relating patterns of biological distribution to remotely-sensed patterns of the physical environment.
Language eng
DOI 10.3389/fmars.2015.00008
Field of Research 050205 Environmental Management
060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology)
070402 Aquatic Ecosystem Studies and Stock Assessment
Socio Economic Objective 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2015, Frontiers Research Foundation
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