Functional beta diversity of New Zealand fishes: Characterising morphological turnover along depth and latitude gradients, with derivation of functional bioregions

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Changes in the functional structures of communities are rarely examined along multiple large-scale environmental gradients. Here, we describe patterns in functional beta diversity for New Zealand marine fishes versus depth and latitude, including broad-scale delineation of functional bioregions. We derived eight functional traits related to food acquisition and locomotion and calculated complementary indices of functional beta diversity for 144 species of marine ray-finned fishes occurring along large-scale depth (50–1200 m) and latitudinal gradients (29°–51°S) in the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone. We focused on a suite of morphological traits calculated directly from in situ Baited Remote Underwater Stereo-Video (stereo-BRUV) footage and museum specimens. We found that functional changes were primarily structured by depth followed by latitude, and that latitudinal functional turnover decreased with increasing depth. Functional turnover among cells increased with increasing depth distance, but this relationship plateaued for greater depth distances (>750 m). In contrast, functional turnover did not change significantly with increasing latitudinal distance at 700–1200 m depths. Shallow functional bioregions (50–100 m) were distinct at different latitudes, whereas deeper bioregions extended across broad latitudinal ranges. Fishes in shallow depths had a body shape conducive to efficient propulsion, while fishes in deeper depths were more elongated, enabling slow, energy-efficient locomotion, and had large eyes to enhance vision. Environmental filtering may be a primary driver of broad-scale patterns of functional beta diversity in the deep sea. Greater environmental homogeneity may lead to greater functional homogeneity across latitudinal gradients at deeper depths (700–1200 m). We suggest that communities living at depth may follow a ‘functional village hypothesis’, whereby similar key functional niches in fish communities may be maintained over large spatial scales.
CAUL Read and Publish agreement 2022
beta diversity, deep-sea fishes, functional homogeneity, spatial turnover, trait
AUSTRAL ECOLOGY, 2021, 46 (6), pp. 965 - 981