Marine Biology

, 166:46 | Cite as

Partial congruence in habitat patterns for taxonomic and functional diversity of fish assemblages in seagrass ecosystems

  • Melisa C. WongEmail author
  • Lauren M. Kay
Original paper


Marine conservation aims to maintain ecological functioning through the protection of biodiversity, frequently relying on habitat categories as representative surrogates for biodiversity. Habitat biodiversity surrogates typically represent taxonomic diversity, despite species functional traits being more directly linked to ecosystem functioning. Here, we evaluate habitat biodiversity surrogates based on taxonomic and functional diversity of fish assemblages in seagrass ecosystems of Nova Scotia, Canada. We do so by assessing congruence in habitat differences (i.e., seagrass vs adjacent bare soft sediment) between biodiversity components across varying environmental conditions, and also by identifying relationships of fish biodiversity with environmental, habitat, and landscape variables. We found only partial agreement in habitat differences for each biodiversity type, that is, habitat differences in taxonomic diversity were only sometimes reflected by functional diversity. In fact, taxonomic diversity was consistently higher in seagrass than bare sediment, while this was not always the case for functional diversity. Similar functional diversity between habitat types resulted from redundancy in functional traits and consistent expression of dominant traits. Regression analyses indicated that taxonomic diversity was determined by habitat complexity (canopy height, sediment organic content), wave exposure, and seagrass bed size (R2 ~ 0.60). Functional diversity was determined by habitat complexity (shoot density, canopy height, and sediment organic content) and wave exposure (R2 = 0.475), suggesting the importance of environmental filtering in selecting a certain set of functional traits. Our study suggests that multiple biodiversity components combined with knowledge of the environmental context are necessary for optimal use of habitat biodiversity surrogates in conservation planning.



We thank G. Bugden, M. Bravo, M. Dowd, C. Giroux, M. Humble, S. Roach, J. Rowsell, and D. Smith for assistance in field sampling, and O. Brown (Natural Resources Canada, Bedford Institute of Oceanography) for assistance in processing sediment samples for particle size. We are grateful for comments provided by reviewers that improved the manuscript. Funding was provided by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed (DFO/CFIA Animal Care File #13-21) and all appropriate research permits were obtained (DFO FRN M13-14, DFO Registration/Fishing Licence 7-000153-26).

Supplementary material

227_2019_3488_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (191 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 191 kb)


  1. Barbier EB, Hacker SD, Kennedy C, Koch EW, Stier AC, Silliman BR (2011) The value of estuarine and coastal ecosystem services. Ecol Monogr 81:169–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Blamey LK, Branch GM (2009) Habitat diversity relative to wave action on rocky shores: implications for the selection of marine protected areas. Aquat Conserv Mar Freshw Ecosyst 19:645–657CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boström C, Jackson EL, Simenstad CA (2006) Seagrass landscapes and their effects on associated fauna: a review. Est Coast Shelf Sci 68:383–403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bremner J, Rogers SI, Frid CLJ (2006) Matching biological traits to environmental conditions in marine benthic ecosystems. J Mar Syst 60:302–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chevenet F, Dolédec S, Chessel D (1994) A fuzzy coding approach for the analysis of long-term ecological data. Freshw Biol 31:295–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cumming GS, Child MF (2009) Contrasting spatial patterns of taxonomic and functional richness offer insights into potential loss of ecosystem services. Philos Trans R Soc B Biol Sci 364:1683–1692CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Devictor V, Mouillot D, Meynard C, Jiguet F, Thuiller W, Mouquet N (2010) Spatial mismatch and congruence between taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional diversity: the need for integrative conservation strategies in a changing world. Ecol Lett 13:1030–1040PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Diaz S, Cabido M (2001) Vive la difference: plant functional diversity matters to ecosystem processes: plant functional diversity matters to ecosystem processes. Trends Ecol Evol 16:646–655CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Diaz S, Lavorel S, de Bello F, Quétier F, Grigulis K, Robson TM (2007) Incorporating plant functional diversity effects in ecosystem service assessments. Proc Nat Acad Sci 104:20684–20689CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dolbeth M, Vendel AL, Baeta A, Pessanha A, Patrício J (2016) Exploring ecosystem functioning in two Brazilian estuaries integrating fish diversity, species traits and food webs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 560:41–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Draper NR, Smith H (1998) Applied regression analysis. Wiley, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Duarte CM, Kirkman H (2001) Methods for the measurement of seagrass abundance and depth distribution. In: Short FT, Coles RG, Short CA (eds) Global seagrass research methods. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 141–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Edgar G, Shaw C (1995) The production and trophic ecology of shallow-water fish assemblages in southern Australia III. General relationships between sediments, seagrasses, invertebrates and fishes. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 194:107–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ferguson AJP, Gruber RK, Orr M, Scanes P (2016) Morphological plasticity in Zostera muelleri across light, sediment, and nutrient gradients in Australian temperate coastal lakes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 556:91–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fishbase (2016) Froese R, Pauly D (eds). World Wide Web electronic publication., version. Accessed Oct 2016
  16. Fonseca M, Whitfield PE, Kelly NM, Bell SS (2002) Modelling seagrass landscape pattern and associated ecological attributes. Ecol Appl 12:218–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gamfeldt L, Lefcheck JS, Byrnes JEK, Cardinale BJ, Duffy JE, Griffin JN (2014) Marine biodiversity and ecosystem functioning: what’s known and what’s next? Oikos 124:252–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gillanders BM, Able KW, Brown JA, Eggleston DB, Sheridan PF (2003) Evidence of connectivity between juvenile and adult habitats for mobile marine fauna: an important component of nurseries. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 247:281–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gotelli NJ, Colwell RK (2001) Quantifying biodiversity: procedures and pitfalls in the measurement and comparison of species richness. Ecol Lett 4:379–391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Guidetti P (2000) Differences among fish assemblages associated with nearshore Posidonia oceanica seagrass beds, rocky–algal reefs and unvegetated sand habitats in the Adriatic Sea. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 50:515–529CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gullström M, Bodin M, Nilsson PG, Öhman MC (2008) Seagrass structural complexity and landscape configuration as determinants of tropical fish assemblage composition. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 363:241–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Heck KL, Hays G, Orth RJ (2003) Critical evaluation of nursery hypothesis for seagrasses. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 253:123–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Henderson CJ, Gilby BL, Lee SY, Stevens T (2017) Contrasting effects of habitat complexity and connectivity on biodiversity in seagrass meadows. Mar Biol 164:117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Holmlund CM, Hammer M (1999) Ecosystem services generated by fish populations. Ecol Econ 29:253–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hooper DU, Chapin FS III, Ewel JJ, Hector A, Inchausti P, Lavorel S, Lawton JH et al (2005) Effects of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning: a consensus of current knowledge. Ecol Monogr 75:3–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jackson EL, Rowden AA, Attrill MJ, Bossey SJ, Jones MB (2001) The importance of seagrass beds as a habitat for fishery species. Oceanogr Mar Biol 39:269–303Google Scholar
  27. Jenkins GP, Black KP, Wheatley MJ, Hatton DN (1997) Temporal and spatial variability in recruitment of a temperate, seagrass-associated fish is largely determined by physical processes in the pre- and post-settlement phases. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 148:23–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Keddy PA (1982) Quantifying within-lake gradients of wave energy: interrelationships of wave energy, substrate particle size and shoreline plants in Axe Lake, Ontario. Aquat Bot 14:41–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Koch EW (2001) Beyond light: physical, geological, and geochemical parameters as possible submersed aquatic vegetation habitat requirements. Estuaries 24:1–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Laliberte E, Legendre P (2010) A distance-based framework for measuring functional diversity from multiple traits. Ecology 91:299–305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Luczak C, Janquin M-A, Kupka A (1997) Simple standard procedure for the routine determination of organic matter in marine sediment. Hydrobiol 345:87–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. MacArthur R, Levins R (1967) The limiting similarity, convergence, and divergence of coexisting species. Am Nat 101:377–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Maire E, Grenouillet G, Brosse S, Villéger S (2015) How many dimensions are needed to accurately assess functional diversity? A pragmatic approach for assessing the quality of functional spaces. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 24:728–740CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mason NWH, Mouillot D, Lee WG, Wilson JB (2005) Functional richness, functional and functional evenness divergence: the primary of functional components diversity. Oikos 111:112–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mason NW, Bello F, Mouillot D, Pavoine S, Dray S (2013) A guide for using functional diversity indices to reveal changes in assembly processes along ecological gradients. J Veg Sci 24:794–806CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McArthur MA, Brooke BP, Przeslawski R, Ryan DA, Lucieer VL, Nichol S, McCallum AW, Mellin C, Cresswell ID, Radke LC (2010) On the use of abiotic surrogates to describe marine benthic biodiversity. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 88:21–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McDonald AM, Prado P, Heck KL, Fourqurean JW, Frankovich TA, Dunton KH, Cebrian J (2016) Seagrass growth, reproductive, and morphological plasticity across environmental gradients over a large spatial scale. Aquat Bot 134:87–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Micheli F, Halpern BS (2005) Low functional redundancy in coastal marine assemblages. Ecol Lett 8:391–400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mouillot D, Dumay O, Tomasini JA (2007) Limiting similarity, niche filtering and functional diversity in coastal lagoon fish communities. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 71:443–456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mouillot D, Graham NAJ, Villéger S, Mason NWH, Bellwood DR (2013) A functional approach reveals community responses to disturbances. Trends Ecol Evol 28:167–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mouillot D, Villeger S, Parravicini V, Kulbicki M, Arias-Gonzalez JE, Bender M, Chabanet P et al (2014) Functional over-redundancy and high functional vulnerability in global fish faunas on tropical reefs. Proc Nat Acad Sci 111:13757–13762CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Norling K, Rosenberg R, Hulth S, Grémare A, Bonsdorff E (2007) Importance of functional biodiversity and species-specific traits of benthic fauna for ecosystem functions in marine sediment. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 332:11–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Palumbi SR, Sandifer PA, Allan JD, Beck MW, Fautin DG, Fogarty MJ et al (2009) Managing for ocean biodiversity to sustain marine ecosystem services. Front Ecol Environ 7:204–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pavoine S, Vallet J, Dufour AB, Gachet S, Daniel H (2009) On the challenge of treating various types of variables: application for improving the measurement of functional diversity. Oikos 118:391–402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Quinn GP, Keough MJ (2002) Experimental design and data analysis for biologists. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ricotta C, Moretti M (2011) CWM and Rao’s quadratic diversity: a unified framework for functional ecology. Oecologia 167:181–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Robinson CLK, Yakimishyn J, Dearden P (2011) Habitat heterogeneity in eelgrass fish assemblage diversity and turnover. Aquat Conserv Mar Freshw Ecosyst 21:625–635CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Schein A, Courtenay SC, Crane CS, Teather KL, van den Heuvel MR (2012) The role of submerged aquatic vegetation in structuring the nearshore fish community within an estuary of the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. Estuar Coasts 35:799–810CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Scott WB, Scott MG (1988) Atlantic fishes of Canada. University of Toronto Press and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Supply and Services CanadaGoogle Scholar
  50. SeaLifeBase (2016) Palomares MLD, Pauly D (eds) World Wide Web electronic publication., version. Accessed Oct 2016
  51. Shore Protection Manual (1975) Fort Belvoir VA: US Army Coastal Engineering Research Center, vol 1Google Scholar
  52. Stuart-Smith RD, Bates AE, Lefcheck JS, Duffy JE, Baker SC, Thomson RJ, Stuart-Smith JF et al (2013) Integrating abundance and functional traits reveals new global hotspots of fish diversity. Nature 501:539–542CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Törnroos A, Bonsdorff E (2012) Developing the multitrait concept for functional diversity: lessons from a system rich in functions but poor in species. Ecol Appl 22:2221–2236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Törnroos A, Nordström MC, Bonsdorff E (2013) Coastal habitats as surrogates for taxonomic, functional and trophic structures of benthic faunal communities. PLoS One 8:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Valdivia N, Segovia-Rivera V, Fica E, Bonta CC, Aguilera AA, Broitman BR (2017) Context-dependent functional dispersion across similar ranges of trait space covered by intertidal rocky shore communities. Ecol Evol 7:1882–1891CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Vasconcelos RP, Henriques S, França S, Pasquaud S, Cardoso I, Laborde M, Cabral HN (2015) Global patterns and predictors of fish species richness in estuaries. J Anim Ecol 84:1331–1341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Villéger S, Mason H, Mouillot D (2008) New multidimensional functional diversity indices for a multifaceted framework. Ecology 89:2290–2301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Villéger S, Miranda JR, Hernández DF, Mouillot D (2010) Contrasting changes in taxonomic vs. functional diversity of tropical fish communities after habitat degradation. Ecol Appl 20:1512–1522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Ward TJ, Vanderklift MA, Nicholls AO, Kenchington RA (1999) Selecting marine reserves using habitats and species assemblages as surrogates for biological diversity. Ecol Appl 9:691–698CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wong MC (2018) Secondary production of macrobenthic communities in seagrass (Zostera marina, Eelgrass) beds and bare soft sediments across differing environmental conditions in Atlantic Canada. Estuar Coasts 41:536–548CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wong MC, Dowd M (2015) Patterns in taxonomic and functional diversity of macrobenthic invertebrates across seagrass habitats: a case study in Atlantic Canada. Estuar Coasts 38:2323–2336CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wong MC, Dowd M (2016) A model framework to determine the production potential of fish derived from coastal habitats for use in habitat restoration. Estuar Coasts 39:1785–1800CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wong MC, Dowd M, Bravo M (2016) Nekton in Zostera marina (eelgrass) beds and bare soft-sediment bottom on the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, Canada: species-specific density and data calibrations for sampling gear and day-night differences. Canadian Technical Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, Report number: 3155.
  64. Zobel M (1997) The relative of species pools in determining plant species richness: an alternative explanation of species coexistence? Trends Ecol Evol 12:266–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Crown 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Fisheries and Oceans CanadaDartmouthCanada

Personalised recommendations