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PeerJ. 2015 Dec 10;3:e1446. doi: 10.7717/peerj.1446. eCollection 2015.

Baseline seabed habitat and biotope mapping for a proposed marine reserve.

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Institute of Marine Science, University of Auckland , Auckland , New Zealand ; School of Environment, University of Auckland , Auckland , New Zealand.
National Centre Coasts and Oceans, National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research , Auckland , New Zealand.
The UWA Oceans Institute and School of Plant Biology, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Western Australia , Crawley, Western Australia , Australia.
Institute of Marine Science, University of Auckland , Auckland , New Zealand.


Seabed mapping can quantify the extent of benthic habitats that comprise marine ecosystems, and assess the impact of fisheries on an ecosystem. In this study, the distribution of seabed habitats in a proposed no-take Marine Reserve along the northeast coast of Great Barrier Island, New Zealand, was mapped using underwater video combined with bathymetry and substratum data. As a result of the boundary extending to the 12 nautical mile Territorial Limit, it would have been the largest coastal Marine Reserve in the country. Recreational and commercial fisheries occur in the region and would be expected to affect species' abundance. The seabed of the study area and adjacent coastal waters has been trawled up to five times per year. Benthic communities were grouped by multivariate cluster analysis into four biotope classes; namely (1) shallow water macroalgae Ecklonia sp. and Ulva sp. on rocky substrata (Eck.Ulv); and deeper (2) diverse epifauna of sponges and bryozoans on rocky substrata (Por.Bry), (3) brittle star Amphiura sp. and sea anemone Edwardsia sp. on muddy sand (Amph.Edw), and (4) hydroids on mud (Hyd). In biotopes Por.Bry, Amph.Edw and Hyd, there where boulders and rocks were present, and diverse sponge, bryozoan and coral communities. Fifty species were recorded in the deep water survey including significant numbers of the shallow-water hexactinellid glass sponges Symplectella rowi Dendy, 1924 and Rossella ijimai Dendy, 1924, the giant pipe demosponge Isodictya cavicornuta Dendy, 1924, black corals, and locally endemic gorgonians. The habitats identified in the waters to the northeast of Great Barrier Island are likely to be representative of similar depth ranges in northeast New Zealand. This study provides a baseline of the benthic habitats so that should the area become a Marine Reserve, any habitat change might be related to protection from fishing activities and impacts, such as recovery of epifauna following cessation of trawling. The habitat map may also be used to stratify future sampling that would aim to collect and identify epifauna and infauna for identification, and thus better describe the biodiversity of the area.


Benthos; Biodiversity; Corals; Fish; Marine Protected Areas (MPA); Sponges

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