Do anthropogenic changes to marine ecosystems result in the formation of ecological traps? (PhD, Melbourne University, 2013 – current).
Project description: Habitats play an important role in structuring animal communities, and habitat characteristics can be detrimental to the survival of animal populations. Majority of marine fish species exhibit a pelagic larval stage that persists in the water column before settling onto a suitable habitat. Fish larvae use a combination of environmental clues to determine habitat suitability. Preferential selection of an unfavourable habitat, that is habitat that leads to lower fitness of individuals, is known as an “ecological trap”. Ecological traps phenomenon has been relatively well recorded in terrestrial environments for a large array of species. However, despite its importance for conservation and management of marine ecosystems, ecological traps issues have been poorly investigated in marine environments. Introduction of artificial structure and/or altering of natural environments can cause ecological trap formation, either through provision of seemingly suitable habitat that provides lower fitness advantages, or through impairment of fish sensory abilities, and therefore abilities to detect “good” habitats.
This project aims to investigate whether artificial structures (e.g. artificial reefs) can act as ecological traps for fish populations and whether these effects my be design related.
Examining Estuarine health in NSW (Research Assistant on several projects at Subtidal Ecology and Ecotoxicology Laboratory in the University of New South Wales 2010-2012).
Katherine Ann Dafforn, Stuart L Simpson, Brendan P Kelaher, Graeme F Clark, Valeriya Komyakova, Chris K Wong, Emma L Johnston (2012) The challenge of choosing environmental indicators of anthropogenic impacts in estuaries. Environmental Pollution 163: 207-217
Habitat characteristics as determinants of the local diversity and structure of coral reef fish communities (MSc thesis, JCU, Townsville 2009).
Thesis can be accessed: http://researchonline.jcu.edu.au/7998/
Komyakova V, Munday PL, Jones GP (2013) Relative Importance of Coral Cover, Habitat Complexity and Diversity in Determining the Structure of Reef Fish Communities. PLoS ONE 8(12): e83178. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083178
Habitat structure as a determinant of the diversity of damselfishes on a coastal coral reef (GradDipResMeth Minor Project, JCU, Townsville 2006).
Minor Project submitted by Valeriya Komyakova in March 2006 in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Diploma of Research Methods in Tropical Marine Ecology and Fisheries Biology, in the School of Marine Biology and Aquaculture, James Cook University of North Queensland.
Coral reefs support very diverse fish communities that are dependent upon different resources associated with the reef habitat. It can be hypothesized that the physical and biological structure of these habitats will play an important role in structuring fish communities. In the present study, I examined the effects of habitat structure (namely topographic complexity and habitat diversity) on the abundances, species richness and diversity of pomacentrids on the inshore reefs of Orpheus and Pelorus Islands. Seventeen sites were surveyed encompassing both the exposed and sheltered sides of the islands. Six 30m transects were randomly placed parallel to the shore at each site and all pomacentrids within one meter on either side of the transect were recorded. The substratum directly underneath transect line was quantified using video transects, recording the proportion of each substratum type along the transect. The water depth was also recorded every 50cm along the transect as an index of topographic complexity. Fish species richness and diversity were weakly associated with different aspects of habitat structure, including topographic complexity, habitat richness and habitat diversity. The abundance of 4 species (Neopomacentrus azysron, Pomacentrus moluccensis, Pomacentrus adelus and Acanthochromis polyacanthus) exhibited positive correlations with branching coral cover and 2 species (Pomacentrus wardi and Pomacentrus chrysurus) were negatively correlated with branching corals.
Multivariate regression tree analysis of the abundances of the seven most common damselfish species showed that differences in sites and levels of topographic complexity explained 26.1% of variability in fish abundances. Therefore, habitat structure is considered to have an effect on the abundances and diversity of damselfish on the inshore coral reefs. Moreover, other factors, which could be of biological and/or physical origin may also be important. Understanding of fish-habitat relationships would provide important information for conservation and management of coral reefs.