Dataset: Patterns of abundance and size of dictyoceratid sponges among neighbouring islands in central Torres Strait (CRC-TS Project: Task Number T1.6a) 2005


Spatial variability in community structure of dictyoceratid sponges (Class Demospongiae; Order Dictyoceratida) was examined on coral reefs in Torres Strait, an archipelago of islands and reefs between northern Queensland, Australia, and Papua New Guinea. Dictyoceratid sponge abundances and environmental parameters were recorded at 4 locations, separated by 50-220 km. Each location was subdivided into 5-7 sites, each ≥2 km apart. At each site four 50x2 m belt transects were quantitatively surveyed, recording dictyoceratid numbers, substrate type (rock, rubble and sand), water clarity, degree of reef slope and depth. Dictyoceratid abundance was similar among locations, averaging 15.5 individuals per 100 m2, but varied significantly among sites. Twenty three dictyoceratid species were recorded in Torres Strait, with approximately half (12/23) found in only one location. Canonical Correspondence Analysis determined that the measured environmental factors explained only 26% of the spatial variation. Cluster analysis revealed a complex dictyoceratid community structure with consistent patterns among neighbouring sites and among sites separated by hundreds of kilometres. Conversely the dictyoceratid community could vary greatly between neighbouring sites 2 km apart and on the same reef complex. The results of this study suggest that spatial variability of dictyoceratid sponges in Torres Strait is influenced by a combination of environmental, biological and stochastic processes.

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