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

Predictive mapping of soft-bottom benthic biodiversity using a surrogacy approach

Zhi Huang A B , Matthew McArthur A , Rachel Przeslawski A , Justy Siwabessy A , Scott Nichol A and Brendan Brooke A

A Coastal, Marine and Climate Change Group, Geoscience Australia, GPO Box 378, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: Zhi.Huang@ga.gov.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 65(5) 409-424 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF13104
Submitted: 18 April 2013  Accepted: 9 September 2013   Published: 18 December 2013

Abstract

A key requirement for informed marine-zone management is an understanding of the spatial patterns of marine biodiversity, often measured as species richness, total abundance or presence of key taxa. In the present study, we focussed on the diversity of benthic infauna and applied a predictive modelling approach to map biodiversity patterns for three study sites on the tropical Carnarvon shelf of Western Australia. A random forest decision tree model was used to generate spatial predictions of two measures of infaunal diversity, namely, species richness and total abundance. Results explained between 20% and 37% of the variance of each measure. The modelling process also identified potential physical surrogates for species richness and abundance, with sediment physical properties ranked as most important across the study region. Specifically, coarse-grained heterogeneous sediments were associated with higher infaunal species richness and total abundance. Seabed topographic properties were also important at the local scale. The study demonstrated the value of a surrogacy approach to the prediction of biodiversity patterns, particularly when the number of biological samples was limited. Such an approach may facilitate an understanding of ecosystem processes in the region and contribute to integrated marine management.

Additional keywords: Carnarvon shelf, infauna, surrogates, Western Australia.


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