Marine colonization and biodiversity at Ascension Island and remote islands
Little is known about colonization of remote island coasts by marine invertebrates, other than corals. The structure of hard substrata assemblages was investigated across Ascension Island's littoral zone in comparison with other sites. Arrays of acrylic panels were deployed at two sites for 2 years at Ascension Island to measure subtidal recruitment. Colonization of panels at Ascension I. was low, though space occupation, abundance and richness varied considerably. After ~1 and 2 years Ascension panels were <17 and <37% covered by fauna and each had 30% covered, with >76 recruits per 100 cm2 and with bryozoans well represented after 1 year. Across-littoral surveys of established macrofauna at five remote islands (Ascension I., Easter I., Azores, South Georgia and Signy I., Antarctica) revealed similar trends of a rich sublittoral and lower littoral reducing drastically up-shore; molluscs dominating abundance and species numbers, whilst polychaetes, crustaceans and echinoderms were well represented. Established sessile animals occurred patchily at a mean density of 8.26 m−2 but recruits had mortality levels >99%. Polar or remote temperate/tropical sites are typically less colonized than at non-remote, low latitudes but the lowest levels reported are at remote polar sites. Reduced colonization at Ascension island reflects remoteness.