Organizers: Chris Fulton1, Shaun Wilson2, Charlotte Berkström3

Affiliations: 1/ Research School of Biology, The Australian National University; 2/ Department of Parks and Wildlife, Western Australia; 3/ Department of Ecology, Environment & Plant Sciences, Stockholm University

Email: christopher.fulton@anu.edu.au; shaun.wilson@dpaw.wa.gov.au; charlotte.berkstrom@su.se

Lead contact: Chris Fulton

Description : Macroalgae can create complex habitats that harbour a wealth of fish biodiversity within coastal waters of the Indo-Pacific. An interesting feature of these habitats is the capacity for dramatic shifts in macroalgae cover and quality to occur over regular (e.g., seasonal) cycles. Stochastic disturbances can also bring profound change, such as the expansion of fleshy macroalgae on coral reefs following mass coral bleaching, or the widespread loss of kelp forests from temperate reefs following marine ‘heat waves’. Fishes that depend on macroalgae to complete their life histories will be particularly vulnerable to such changes in habitat availability. At the same time, fishes can mediate feedbacks that are critical to the persistence or loss of macroalgae-dominated habitats. This session brings together research that examines the drivers and consequences of change for fishes and macroalgae-dominated habitats in order to gain a broader appreciation of their vulnerability and response to disturbances.

Expected Audience : Changes in macroalgae-dominated habitats threaten the biodiversity of tropical and temperate fish communities throughout the Indo-Pacific region. Consequently, this session will be of direct relevance to researchers, managers and local NGOS working in tropical and temperate regions who are concerned by the implications of either: (a) macroalgae habitats becoming lost (e.g. range contraction of temperate kelp forests due to tropicalisation), or (b) macroalgae habitats arising as a new prominent habitat on shallow reefs (e.g. macroalgae overgrowth of coral reefs following bleaching).