Marine Biology

, Volume 157, Issue 11, pp 2503–2509 | Cite as

Variability in the spatial association patterns of sponge assemblages in response to environmental heterogeneity

  • James J. Bell
  • Jade Berman
  • Timothy Jones
  • Leanne J. Hepburn
Original Paper


Previous work on tropical sponge assemblages has provided strong evidence that sponges coexist on coral reefs through a diversity of positive and negative associations; however, the majority of this work has focused on Caribbean coral reefs. Here, we investigate the intra-phyletic spatial associations between the 20 most abundant sponge species at two sites experiencing different environmental regimes in the Wakatobi National Marine Park, Indonesia. We used a Monte Carlo simulation approach to compare the number of spatial associations between each species pair to that expected if species distribution patterns were non-associative (i.e. random). We found that sponges were predominately randomly distributed at the high coral cover site, whereas most sponges were negatively associated with other sponges at the sedimented, low coral cover site. We also found differences between distribution patterns for specific species at the two sites; a number of species that showed a random distribution pattern at the high coral cover site had negative association patterns at the low coral cover site. Our research supports recent ecological studies suggesting that interactions between species are unlikely to be homogenously distributed, as we found that some sponge species interactions differed depending on the environmental regimes in which they were found; this suggests that species interactions may be spatially variable. Finally, our results contrast with studies from elsewhere, as the sponge assemblages at these two sites in the Wakatobi appear to be dominated by negative associations and random distribution patterns rather than widespread competition.


Sponge Coral Reef Coral Cover Spatial Association Sponge Species 
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 are indebted to the staff of the Hoga Island research station, whose help has been invaluable in allowing us to conduct research in Indonesia. Dr. Bell would also like to express his gratitude to Operation Wallacea for financial and logistic support for his research since 2003, which has allowed access to research facilities in the WNMP. Finally, Dr. Bell is grateful to the PADI Foundation for providing financial assistance for this specific project.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • James J. Bell
    • 1
  • Jade Berman
    • 1
  • Timothy Jones
    • 1
  • Leanne J. Hepburn
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre for Marine Environmental and Economic Research, School of Biological SciencesVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand
  2. 2.Coral Reef Research Unit, Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of EssexColchesterUK

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