Coral Reefs

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 891–901 | Cite as

Trophic designation and live coral cover predict changes in reef-fish community structure along a shallow to mesophotic gradient in Hawaii

  • Corinne N. KaneEmail author
  • Brian N. Tissot


Reef-fish community structure and habitat associations are well documented for shallow coral reefs (<20 m) but are largely unknown in deeper extensions of reefs (mesophotic reefs; >30 m). We documented the community structure of fishes and seafloor habitat composition through visual observations at depth intervals from 3 to 50 m in West Hawaii. Community structure changed gradually with depth, with more than 78% of fish species observed at mesophotic depths also found in shallow reef habitats. Depth explained 17% of the variation in reef-fish community structure; live coral cover explained 10% and prevalence of sand accounted for 7% of the fitted variation indicating that depth-related factors and coral habitat play a predominant role in structuring these communities. Differences in community structure also appear to be linked closely with feeding behavior. Trophic designation accounted for 31% of the fitted variation, with changes in herbivore abundance accounting for 10% of the variation. These findings suggest that changes in reef-fish community composition from shallow to mesophotic environments are largely influenced by trophic position, coral habitat and indirect effects of depth itself.


Fish assemblages Community structure Depth refuge Mesophotic coral ecosystems Oceanic islands 



This research was generously supported by NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (Grant # NA13NOS4820026 and NA15NOS4820075), Waitt Foundation Rapid Ocean Conservation Grant, NOAA Nancy Foster Scholarship, NSF GK-12 Graduate Fellowship and WSU Vancouver. We thank Dr. Bill Walsh and Hawaii’s Division of Aquatic Resources for their support and guidance for the duration of this project. We graciously thank S. Annandale, K.W. Bryan, K. Carlson, J. Coney, A. Faucci, K. Flanagan, K. Gaab, L. Kramer, K. Lopes, T. Phelps, D. Smith, T. Terazono, T. Wester and Kona Diving Company for their field and logistical support. We also thank Eran Brokovich and additional anonymous reviewers who provided insightful comments for this manuscript.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (EPS 3837 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 62 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Arts and SciencesWashington State UniversityVancouverUSA
  2. 2.Marine LaboratoryHumboldt State UniversityTrinidadUSA

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