Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Distribution and spatial modelling of a soft coral habitat in the Port Stephens–Great Lakes Marine Park: implications for management

Davina E. Poulos A D , Christopher Gallen B , Tom Davis C , David J. Booth A and David Harasti B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Life Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney, NSW 2007, Australia.

B Fisheries Research, Marine Ecosystems, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Locked Bag 800, Nelson Bay, NSW 2315, Australia.

C National Marine Science Centre, Southern Cross University, PO Box 4321, Coffs Harbour, NSW 2450, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Present address: College of Marine & Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia. Email: davina.poulos@my.jcu.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 67(2) 256-265 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF14059
Submitted: 13 May 2013  Accepted: 9 March 2015   Published: 22 June 2015

Abstract

Habitat mapping is a useful method for understanding the complex spatial relationships that exist in the marine environment, and is used to evaluate the effectiveness of management strategies, particularly in regards to marine protected areas. This study explored the observed and predicted distribution of an uncommon soft coral species, Dendronephthya australis within the Port Stephens–Great Lakes Marine Park. Dendronephthya australis was mapped by video operated by a SCUBA diver towing a time synchronised GPS. A species distribution model was created to explore the possible occurrence of D. australis outside of the mapped area, using four environmental parameters: bathymetry, slope of seabed, velocity of tidal currents, and distance from estuary mouth. Dendronephthya australis colonies occurred along the southern shoreline in the Port Stephens estuary between Fly Point and Corlette Point, but no colonies were found within sanctuary (no-take) zones within the marine park. The model illustrated limited habitat suitability for D. australis within a larger section of the estuary, suggesting this species has specific environmental requirements survival. Owing to its current threats (anchor damage and fishing line entanglement), implications from these findings will assist future management and protection decisions, particularly in regard to its protection within a marine park.

Additional keywords: Dendronephthya australis, estuary, marine protected area, Maxent, species distribution model, towed-GPS.


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