Marine Biology

, Volume 161, Issue 12, pp 2847–2855 | Cite as

Diversity, abundance, and distribution of reef sharks on outer-shelf reefs of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

  • Justin R. Rizzari
  • Ashley J. Frisch
  • Katalin A. Magnenat
Original Paper


Quantifying the distribution and habitat use of sharks is critical for understanding their ecological role and for establishing appropriate conservation and management regimes. On coral reefs, particularly the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), little is known regarding the distribution of sharks across major reef habitat types. In this study, we surveyed shark populations across outer-shelf reefs of the GBR in order to determine the diversity, abundance, and distribution of reef sharks across three major coral reef habitats: (1) the reef slope, (2) the back reef and (3) the reef flat. Model selection revealed that habitat was the principal factor influencing shark distribution and abundance. Specifically, overall shark abundance and diversity were significantly higher on the reef slope (and to a lesser degree, the back reef) than the reef flat. This confirms that shark populations are not homogeneously distributed across coral reefs. Thus, the results presented herein have important implications for shark population assessments. In addition, our results highlight the potential importance of the reef slope, with high levels of live coral cover and structural complexity, for sustaining reef shark populations. As this habitat is highly susceptible to disturbance events, this study provides a useful context for predicting and understanding how environmental degradation may influence reef shark populations in the future.


Coral Reef Great Barrier Reef Coral Cover Reef Flat Reef Slope 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank B. Bergseth, S. Brandl, M. Rocker, D. Williamson, and four anonymous reviewers for useful discussions and/or comments on the manuscript. We also thank the staff of Lizard Island Research Station, a facility of the Australian Museum, for logistical support. Financial support was provided by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, The School of Marine and Tropical Biology at James Cook University, a grant from the Save Our Seas Foundation (J.R.R.) and a Lizard Island Research Station John and Laurine Proud Fellowship from the Australian Museum (A.J.F.). This research was undertaken with permission from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (permit no. G13/36059.1.).

Supplementary material

227_2014_2550_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (209 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 209 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Justin R. Rizzari
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Ashley J. Frisch
    • 1
  • Katalin A. Magnenat
    • 2
  1. 1.Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.School of Marine and Tropical BiologyJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.AIMS@JCU, Australian Institute of Marine ScienceJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

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