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Habitat-forming bryozoans in New Zealand: their known and predicted distribution in relation to broad-scale environmental variables and fishing effort.


ABSTRACT: Frame-building bryozoans occasionally occur in sufficient densities in New Zealand waters to generate habitat for other macrofauna. The environmental conditions necessary for bryozoans to generate such habitat, and the distributions of these species, are poorly known. Bryozoan-generated habitats are vulnerable to bottom fishing, so knowledge of species' distributions is essential for management purposes. To better understand these distributions, presence records were collated and mapped, and habitat suitability models were generated (Maxent, 1 km(2) grid) for the 11 most common habitat-forming bryozoan species: Arachnopusia unicornis, Cellaria immersa, Cellaria tenuirostris, Celleporaria agglutinans, Celleporina grandis, Cinctipora elegans, Diaperoecia purpurascens, Galeopsis porcellanicus, Hippomenella vellicata, Hornera foliacea, and Smittoidea maunganuiensis. The models confirmed known areas of habitat, and indicated other areas as potentially suitable. Water depth, vertical water mixing, tidal currents, and water temperature were useful for describing the distribution of the bryozoan species at broad scales. Areas predicted as suitable for multiple species were identified, and these 'hotspots' were compared to fishing effort data. This showed a potential conflict between fishing and the conservation of bryozoan-generated habitat. Fishing impacts are known from some sites, but damage to large areas of habitat-forming bryozoans is likely to have occurred throughout the study area. In the present study, spatial error associated with the use of historic records and the coarse native resolution of the environmental variables limited both the resolution at which the models could be interpreted and our understanding of the ecological requirements of the study species. However, these models show species distribution modelling has potential to further our understanding of habitat-forming bryozoan ecology and distribution. Importantly, comparisons between hotspots of suitable habitat and the distribution of bottom fishing in the study area highlight the need for management measures designed to mitigate the impact of seafloor disturbance on bryozoan-generated habitat in New Zealand waters.

SUBMITTER: Wood AC 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC3781067 | BioStudies | 2013-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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