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Diversity and community assembly in Caribbean reef fish

Final Report Summary - REEF FISH DIVERSITY (Diversity and community assembly in Caribbean reef fish)

The project has been highly successful, both in terms of direct research output and in terms of the development of Ben Holt’s scientific career. The most important aspects of the project output are highlighted below:
Holt et al. 2013. “An Update of Wallace’s Zoogeographic Regions of the World.”
Published in Science at the start of 2013, this is the first study to combine phylogenetic and geographical information for all known mammals, birds and amphibians, a total of over 20,000 species. The work provides a new transparent and objective depiction of biodiversity across the globe and it is of major significance for future biodiversity research. It has received worldwide media attention from organisations such as the BBC, Discovery, the New York Times and Science News.
Link to pdf: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/339/6115/74.full.pdf
The project involved international collaboration among fifteen researchers, including some of the most well respected scientists in biogeography, and has successfully produced a “next generation” map of terrestrial vertebrate diversity. This work is set to have a significant impact on future biodiversity research and conservation management, and is sure to have a major influence on Dr Holt’s future career.
Holt et al. 2013. “Comparing diversity data collected using a protocol designed for volunteers with results from a professional alternative.”
The REEF fish survey program has played a key role in this project. It is considered to be the largest marine species sighting database in the world, with over 100,000 surveys performed across more than 5,000 sites across the Greater Caribbean alone. Recently published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution, this study demonstrates the REEF volunteer protocol can give results consistent with professional methods with regards to spatial patterns of local diversity. The survey design and analytical methods in this study have immediate applications to other survey programs and Dr Holt has subsequently begun similar working collaborations within Denmark and the UK.
Link to pdf: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/2041-210X.12031/pdf
Coral reef fish species richness in the Wider Caribbean region
Within this project Dr Holt worked in conjunction with Sofie Clauson-Kaas, in order to build on his previous work with the REEF fish survey program and investigate the potential drivers of biodiversity patterns for coral reef systems in the tropical Western Atlantic. Dr Holt completed an in-depth analysis of the potential sources of bias within this huge volunteer collected data set and developed an optimum analytical procedure for dealing with these issues analytically. This work allows robust identification of diversity patterns within this study system and facilitates investigation of the biotic and abiotic factors associated with these patterns. As a result, under Dr Holt’s supervision, Sofie Clauson-Kaas was able to use these data for her MSc thesis project, which considered environmental factors shaped biodiversity in the region. Sofie produced a high quality project, which received the highest possible mark, and her work is currently being prepared for publication in Marine Ecology Progress Series, along with Dr Holt’s data standardisation analysis.