Meta-analysis of reef fish data in Hawaii

Alan Friedlander, Mary Donovan, Kostantinos Stamoulis, and Ivor Williams

This study, for the first time, has synthesized all data sets of reef fish data into a single and spatially comprehensive database in order to characterize reef fish assemblages around Hawaii



Spatial coverage and sample sizes of surveys

We compiled 25 datasets, representing more than 25,000 individual fish surveys from throughout the entire Hawaiian Archipelago since the year 2000. These data were rigorously checked for errors and integrated into a common database with a consistent structure. Likewise, a methods calibration was conducted to standardize observations for further analysis.


  • We developed the first ever bioregionalization of the Hawaiian Archipelago with a number of faunal breaks driven primarily by the relative abundance of endemic species.
  • Endemic species showed a strong and statistically significant negative correlation with latitude.
  • The traditional Hawaiian district or moku was used as a unit of spatial stratification.
  • Biomass of resource species was negatively correlated with human population pressure among moku.
  • Resource fish biomass was highest in moku with northern and easterly exposures.
  • Overall biomass within protected areas was lower on Oahu and Maui than on Hawaii Island and Lanai, where overall human pressure is lower.
  • Older MPAs had the highest resource fish biomass while newer MPAs had fewer numbers and smaller sizes of resource fishes.

Resource fish biomass by island for 3 levels of spatial protection compared to open areas


Overall, this synthesis is the first ever, comprehensive examination of reef fish assemblage structure across Hawaii. The results show clear, distinct bioregions across the archipelago that give us a better understanding of reef fish macroecology and have important implications for management at the regional scale. The findings from this study also highlight the negative impacts of human population pressure on reef fishes, particularly around Oahu and Maui.

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