Spatial variability in the structure of fish assemblages associated with Laminaria hyperborea forests in the NE Atlantic

Mathilde Jackson-Bué, Dan A. Smale*, Nathan G. King, Aaron G. Rushton, Pippa J. Moore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Understanding fish-habitat associations is critical for ecosystem-based approaches to management and conservation. Kelp species, which are estimated to inhabit around 25% of the world's coastline and underpin highly productive and biodiverse ecosystems, are widely recognised as important nursery and foraging habitats for coastal fish species. However, quantitative assessments of fish assemblages within kelp forests are lacking for many regions. Here, we used Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) and Underwater Visual Census (UVC) to quantify fish assemblages in Laminaria hyperborea forests at eight shallow subtidal rocky reefs that spanned 9° of latitude in the United Kingdom (UK). Fish assemblages were a ubiquitous and conspicuous component of kelp forest communities at all sites. BRUV surveys recorded marked regional-scale variability, with latitudinal shifts in assemblage structure and particularly distinct assemblages recorded in southwest England. These patterns were largely due to greater abundances of Pollachius spp. (i.e. saithe and pollock) in northern regions and higher numbers of Gobiusculus flavescens (two-spotted goby) and labrid species (i.e. rock cook, goldsinny and ballan wrasses) in southern regions. Unlike BRUVs, UVC surveys did not detect significant regional-scale variation in assemblage structure but did detect significant site-level differences, highlighting differences between the two techniques. BRUV surveys also recorded clear latitudinal trends in richness, with more taxa recorded at lower latitudes. Fish assemblages in the NE Atlantic have been, and will continue to be, impacted by ocean warming and fishing activities. Greater spatiotemporal coverage of kelp forest surveys and ongoing robust monitoring is needed to better understand and manage future ecological changes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number151899
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Early online date15 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jul 2023


  • Coastal ecosystems
  • Fish assemblages
  • Food webs
  • Kelp
  • Marine biodiversity


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