Marine Biodiversity

, Volume 49, Issue 5, pp 2411–2428 | Cite as

Patterns in fish biodiversity associated with temperate reefs on the southeastern US continental shelf

  • Nathan M. BachelerEmail author
  • Zebulon H. Schobernd
  • Kevan C. Gregalis
  • Christina M. Schobernd
  • Bradford Z. Teer
  • Zachary Gillum
  • Dawn M. Glasgow
  • Neil McNeill
  • Michael Burton
  • Roldan Muñoz
Original Paper


Temperate reef fishes provide many benefits to humans including food, sport, and ecotourism, yet remain severely understudied compared to coral reef fishes in tropical environments. We used 3 years of underwater video data (n = 4130 samples) from hardbottom reefs along the continental shelf of the southeastern US Atlantic coast (i.e., North Carolina to Florida; ~ 100,000 km2) to quantify the spatial and temporal patterns of temperate reef fish biodiversity in the region. Overall, 210 taxa were identified on video from 53 families, 138 of which could be identified to the species level. Species with the highest percent occurrence were gray triggerfish (Balistes capriscus; observed on 45.6% of all videos), tomtate (Haemulon aurolineatum; 42.7%), and red porgy (Pagrus pagrus; 39.4%), and 23 species were observed on more than 10% of videos. Latitudinal variability swamped temporal changes (2015–2017) for most taxa. After accounting for the influence of water clarity and current direction on video detectability, generalized additive models suggested that species and family richness were highest at sites characterized by moderate depths, a high proportion of hardbottom, high substrate relief, and warm water. Our results can be used to predict areas of highest reef fish biodiversity at large (regional) and small (microhabitat) scales to improve marine protected area design, delineate essential fish habitats, and parameterize ecosystem models.


Diversity Richness Fisheries Video BRUVS Conservation Management Generalized additive model Snapper-grouper 



We thank everyone who contributed to the collection of data including the captains and crews of the R/V Savannah, R/V Palmetto, SRVx Sand Tiger, and NOAA Ship Pisces, SERFS staff, and numerous volunteers. We thank C. Buckel, A. Chester, A. Hohn, T. Kellison, and three anonymous reviewers for providing comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. Mention of trade names or commercial companies is for identification purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA. The scientific results and conclusions, as well as any views and opinions expressed herein, are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of any government agency.


This study was funded by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All research activities were carried out under Scientific Research Permits issued to Todd Kellison on 29 June 2010 and Nathan Bacheler on 16 June 2015 by the US National Marine Fisheries Service, in accordance with the relevant guidelines and regulations on the ethical use of animals as experimental subjects.

Sampling and field studies

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed and all necessary approvals have been obtained.

Data availability

The dataset analyzed during the current study is available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. government work and not under copyright protection in the U.S.; foreign copyright protection may apply 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nathan M. Bacheler
    • 1
    Email author
  • Zebulon H. Schobernd
    • 1
  • Kevan C. Gregalis
    • 1
  • Christina M. Schobernd
    • 1
  • Bradford Z. Teer
    • 1
  • Zachary Gillum
    • 1
  • Dawn M. Glasgow
    • 2
  • Neil McNeill
    • 1
  • Michael Burton
    • 1
  • Roldan Muñoz
    • 1
  1. 1.Southeast Fisheries Science CenterNational Marine Fisheries ServiceBeaufortUSA
  2. 2.South Carolina Department of Natural ResourcesMarine Resources Research InstituteCharlestonUSA

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