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

Developing a habitat classification typology for subtidal habitats in a temperate estuary in New South Wales, Australia

Tom R. Davis A B D , David Harasti C and Stephen D. A. Smith A B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

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

B Marine Ecology Research Centre, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia.

C Fisheries Research, Marine Ecosystems, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Locked Bag 1, Nelson Bay, NSW 2315, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: davistn1@gmail.com

Marine and Freshwater Research 67(8) 1186-1195 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF15123
Submitted: 23 March 2015  Accepted: 23 May 2015   Published: 4 September 2015

Abstract

Effective estuarine management depends on adequate data about the ecology, extent and biodiversity of component habitats. However, these data are often scant, as exemplified by the Port Stephens estuary, part of the Port Stephens–Great Lakes Marine Park (NSW, Australia), for which even basic descriptions of habitat types and extent are lacking. Herein we present the results of the first quantitative assessment of subtidal benthic communities within the estuary, involving 130 km of towed video transects over an area exceeding 50 km2. We identified previously undocumented macroalgae-dominated habitat types and found strong correlations between habitat types and depth. The soft coral Dendronephthya australis habitat is of particular interest because this was found to occur exclusively outside current sanctuary (no take) zones. The habitat map of Port Stephens generated during the study provides the basis for more objective representative planning in future iterations of zoning in the estuarine section of the marine park. The study also suggests that depth may be a useful proxy for estuarine habitat types where specific data are lacking. The classification methodology developed during the study was cost-effective, generated robust data and consequently has potential for wider application in other large estuarine bays.

Additional keywords: conservation management, habitat mapping, marine protected area, Port Stephens, structural macrobiota, towed video.


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