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17 years of tropicalisation and kelp loss shift trophic composition and lead to more winners than losers in a fish community
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  • Shannen Smith,
  • Hamish Malcolm,
  • Ezequiel Marzinelli,
  • Arthur Shultz,
  • Peter Steinberg,
  • Adriana Verges
Shannen Smith
University of New South Wales

Corresponding Author:shannen.smith@unsw.edu.au

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Hamish Malcolm
NSW Department of Primary Industries
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Ezequiel Marzinelli
The University of Sydney Faculty of Science
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Arthur Shultz
NSW Department of Primary Industries
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Peter Steinberg
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Adriana Verges
School of Biological Sciences, University of New South Wales
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Species redistributions are causing novel interactions and leading to profound regime shifts globally. In temperate reefs, the range expansion of tropical herbivorous fish has been linked to the disappearance of temperate kelps, but consequent effects on resident fish communities are not clear. Here, we show overall increases in species richness and abundance (measured as probability of occurrence) of both tropical and temperate fishes identified on video surveys over a 17-year period of kelp loss. Tropical herbivores increased most markedly as kelp declined, while temperate planktivores declined, a potential consequence of tropicalisation not previously identified that suggests important changes to energy pathways. We identified 22 tropical and temperate species from four trophic guilds that significantly increased in occurrence, and only four temperate species that declined. Morphological trait space models suggest increases in fish diversity and overall occurrence are unlikely to be driven by uniqueness of traits amongst tropical range expanders.