Poster Australian Marine Sciences Association 2022

Knowing our Limits: How Limited Data on Predator-prey Density Dependence Shapes Broader Knowledge and Conservation Implications for Coastal Fish GroupsĀ  (#469)

Jaelen N Myers 1 , Carlo Mattone 1 , Michael Bradley 1 , Marcus Sheaves 1
  1. College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Field studies on marine fishes often report positive predator-prey density dependence, indicating prey availability to be a significant driver of species abundances. In nearshore coastal environments, localized areas with abundant prey resources have high biological value for fish populations, making them critical for management. However, we must acknowledge how information from different taxonomic groups, environments, and specific contexts affects the perceived significance of prey for ecological models and species management. We synthesized studies on predator-prey density-dependence of coastal fish groups/species, finding that studies were concentrated towards few taxonomic groups (demersal flatfishes and elasmobranchs). For both groups, studies were concentrated towards few species and juvenile life stages, which may limit knowledge to organisms with specific traits and foraging strategies. Geographically, studies were concentrated in subtropical zones for elasmobranchs and temperate zones for flatfishes, limiting our understanding on how different ecological processes across climatic gradients could affect predator-prey responses. Spatio-temporal scaling also increased specificity of study outcomes, in which relationships are better represented at small spatial scales. Overall, integrating limitations across multiple levels shows how we can direct future research and support species and habitat management within the appropriate bounds.