Auckland University of Technology

Bay Of Plenty Polytechnic

Department Of Marine Science

ID: 9900993. 28 October 2008 Academic supervisor: Caroline Schweder-Goad Paper: 777003 1 

I. Abstract
Data on the abundance and distribution of Australostichopus mollis was collected from sites surrounding Ti Point between 2000 & 2001 by A. Morgan. The data set was taken and descriptive statistics done to analyze variables against the number of counts. Over the 22 transects and 248 quadrates sampled across 5 sites, 344 individuals were counted. Differences between the Harbor and Mathesons Bay sides were found between the µ abundance per m2, the mean percentage of canopy cover and to a lesser degree the mean percentage of Rock Boulder topography. Linier regressions were done between each variable recoded and the number of individuals counted, of these only canopy cover and rock boulder topography showed a reliable correlation (Rock/Boulder = R2 0.93, Canopy = R2 0.66). It was determined that additional variables may be responsible for the abundance and distribution across the Ti Point sites, further study is recommended.

II. Table of Contents
I.  ABSTRACT  II.  TABLE OF CONTENTS  III.  TABLE OF FIGURES  IV.  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS  1  INTRODUCTION  1.1  1.2  1.3  1.4  OBJECTIVE  ECOLOGY  FISHERIES  SITES & LOCATION  2  3  4  5  6  6  6  8  9  11  11  11  12  13  15  15  17  25  26  27  29 


III. Table of Figures
Figure 1:1, Map of New Zealand displaying the distribution & abundance of A. mollis from NIWA  data C1977 (Census Of Marine Life, 2007). _____________________________________________________________ 7  Figure 1:2, Map of New Zealand displaying the distribution & mean abundance of A. mollis per m2  from DoC data (Shears & Babcock, 2007). ______________________________________________________________ 7  Figure 1:3, Map of the entirety of Rodney District, line shows Ti Point._________________________________10  Figure 1:4, Direction of currents that flow into and out of Whangateau harbor (Rodney District  Council, 2008). _____________________________________________________________________________________________10  Figure 2:1, aerial photo displaying site location names and approximate locations of transect  lines(MapData Sciences PtyLtd, PSMA, 2008). Enlarged section of marine navigational chart  nz­522 displaying Ti Point with approximate locations of transects marked in yellow (Land  Information New Zealand (Toitu te whenua), 1999) ________________________________________________11  Figure 2:2, diagrams of topography recorded within quadrates _________________________________________12  Figure 2:3, Diagram of quadrate used showing the positioning on the transect line. _________________13  Figure 3:1, The mean abundance Per m2 of A. mollis found on the harbor side (T1­12) compared to  the Mathesons Bay side (T13­22), displaying a 95% level of confidence. ________________________16  Figure 3:2, The mean percentage of canopy cover found at the harbor side (T1­12) compared to the  Mathesons Bay side (T13­22), displaying a 95% level of confidence._____________________________16  Figure 3:3, The mean percentage of Rock Boulder topography found at the harbor side (T1­12)  compared to the Mathesons Bay side (T13­22), displaying a 95% level of confidence. ________17  Figure 3:4, Correlation regression between the mean numbers of Australostichopus mollis found  within each depth class, displaying trend line with R2 value and ±95% level of confidence. _18  Figure 3:5, Correlation regression between the mean numbers of Australostichopus mollis found  within each gradient class, displaying trend line with R2 value and ±95% level of confidence. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________18  Figure 3:6, Correlation regression between the mean numbers of Australostichopus mollis found  within each canopy coverage percentage class, displaying trend line with R2 value and ±95%  level of confidence. ________________________________________________________________________________________19  Figure 3:7, Correlation regression between the mean numbers of Australostichopus mollis found  within each Corrugated topography percentage class, displaying trend line with R2 value and  ±95% level of confidence_________________________________________________________________________________20  Figure 3:8, Correlation regression between the mean numbers of Australostichopus mollis found  within each Flat Rock topography percentage class, displaying trend line with R2 value and  ±95% level of confidence. ________________________________________________________________________________20  Figure 3:9, Correlation regression between the mean numbers of Australostichopus mollis found  within each ridged topography percentage class, displaying trend line with R2 value and  ±95% level of confidence. ________________________________________________________________________________21  Figure 3:10, Correlation regression between the mean numbers of Australostichopus mollis found  within each Rock & Boulder topography percentage class, displaying trend line with R2 value  and ±95% level of confidence. ___________________________________________________________________________22  Figure 3:11, Correlation regression between the mean numbers of Australostichopus mollis found  within each Sediment topography percentage class, displaying trend line with R2 value and  ±95% level of confidence. ________________________________________________________________________________23  Figure 3:12, Correlation regressions between the mean numbers of Australostichopus mollis found  within each boulder size percentage range, displaying a trend line and a ± 95% level of  confidence, a)< 20cm Boulder Proportion, b) 20­50cm Boulder Proportion, c) 50­100cm  Boulder Proportion, d) >100cm Boulder Proportion. _______________________________________________24 

IV. Acknowledgments
I would like to thank Dr. Andrew Morgan for allowing me to use his data set and for his invaluable help during the report writing process. Without his generosity, there would be no report. A big thank you has to go to my academic supervisor Caroline Schweder-Goad whose help and support was vital to the successful completion of this project. Thank you also to all teachers within the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic for their enduring optimism and dedication. Finally to all other students of the Marine Studies/AUT degree course who have made the last three years worth doing again and again.



Although a well known established species within New Zealand the ecology and life history of Australostichopus mollis remains largely unknown, with only a handful of people having done any extensive study regarding this species (Archer, 1996; Dawbin, 1949a; Dawbin, 1949b; Morgan, 2008; Sewell, 1990). Previous reports regarding this species have stated how critical it is to build the knowledgebase surround the relationships between habitat, distribution and abundance of Australostichopus (Stichopus) mollis (Morgan, 2001). The purpose of this study was to determine habitat preference of the New Zealand sea cucumber Australostichopus mollis by the use of descriptive statistics on data collected by Dr Andrew Morgan between the year 2000 & 2001. The data was collected from five sites surrounding Ti Point a peninsular located 90km north of Auckland and 5km south of Leigh marine reserve (Dingle, 2004; Sewell, 1990). From the analysis of data within this report, it is hoped that a pattern of habitat preference associated with distribution and abundance can be determined.

Australostichopus mollis formerly known as Stichopus mollis has only recently been reclassified into its own genus due to biochemical and morphological differences that distinguish it from other members of the genus Stichopus (Moraes, Norhcote, Kalinin, & Avilov, 2004). Brandt 1835 first described the genus of Stichopus, and F.W. Hutton made the first descriptions of the Species Stichopus mollis in 1904 (Hutton, 1904). The family grouping of A. mollis (Stichopodidae) is recognized as having an indirect larval development through planktotrophic auricularia (larva that derives its nourishment by feeding in the plankton)(Smith, 1997). A. mollis is relatively abundant around the coast of New Zealand and the southern coast of New South Wales, Victoria and western Australia (Sewell, 1990); it is found in a variety of coastal habitats including shallow rocky reefs and mud seafloor at depths exceeding 100m (Slater & Carton, 2007). Until recently, national figures on A. mollis abundance and distribution were limited to studies done by NIWA (National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research) in the 1970’s(Census Of Marine Life, 2007) (Figure 1:1). 6 

Figure 1:1, Map of New Zealand displaying the distribution & abundance of A. mollis from NIWA data C1977 (Census Of Marine Life, 2007).

Figure 1:2, Map of New Zealand displaying the distribution & mean abundance of A. mollis per m2 from DoC data (Shears & Babcock, 2007).

New research done in association with DoC (Department of Conservation) on shallow subtidal reef communities sampled has found a wider geographical range in which A. mollis is found (Figure 1:2), however as this study was restricted to shallow reef communities it only represents a section of A. mollis’s total habitat range suggesting that it may occur much more frequently than is currently being represented. There have been a number of studies that have looked at the abundance of Holothurians of a variety of species. Frouin Et al 2008 found that when determining holothurian populations in Reunion Island that a pattern between abundance and physical variables could not be found. Studies done by Dar & Ahmad, 2006 looked at the feeding behaviour throughout the year, the feeding selectivity habits, relationships betwee types of sediment consumed and reproductive seasons. Shepherd, Toral-Granda, & Edgar, 2005 sugested that to properly sample the abundance and distribution of marine macro-inverterbrates that an equal number of transects should be done at night, as a daytime census underestimated the abundance by up to 10 times. Uthicke & Benzie, 2000 found that density of Holothuria nobilis were upto 5 times higher in fishing protected areas than in areas that were open to fishing. A similar study looked at diurnal differences in sheltering behaviour and found marked differenced between morning and afternoon sampling. It was their conclusion that if surface based census techniques were uesd during times of reduced activity and increased incedence of sheltering, that underestimation of abundance may occour (Shiell & Knott, 2008).

Globally there exists a number of temperate and tropical Holothuroidean fisheries, as of 2007 these fisheries involved 49 species and eventuate in products such as beche-de-mer(ToralGranda, 2007). CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) has listed the greatest threat to sea cucumber populations as being overexploitation to supply a growing international demand for beche-de-mer and other products, between 1950 and 2000 it is estimated that the world sea cucumber capture fishery increased approximately 500%(Bruckner, 2007). Overexploitation has been observed in wide array of countries around the world including Ecuador, The United States of America, Australia, Mexico, Comoros Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Philippines (Bruckner, 2005; Hearn & Pinillos, 2006; Lowden, 2005; Perezrul, 2005; Pouget, 2004; Trianni, 2002; Akamnine, 2001). Management of these fisheries is vital, they require an effective management plan along with effective enforcement, however resources are not always 8 

available for the scale of operation that might be required to protect an area. In 1990 an Ecuadorian costal fishery had collapsed there was an influx of fishers to the nearby Galapagos Islands, a trial fishery was instituted with a catch quota of 500,000 individuals however six weeks later the fishery was closed after an estimated total catch of between 8-12 million individuals were caught. After the fishery was closed, there continued to be a significant amount of illegal fishing(Hearn & Pinillos, 2006). Australostichopus (Stichopus) mollis is provided for with the New Zealand Quota Management System (QMS), they were introduced to the NZ fisheries system on the 1 April 2004. The ministry of fisheries states A. mollis as being the only NZ Holothuroidean of commercial value. The ministry of fisheries has very little information on the stock of this species limited to small scale biomass estimates, although they do make suggestions regarding the possible potential of aquaculture and enhancement(Ministry Of Fisheries, 2008). Recent studies of this species have explored the potential for polyculture with the NZ green-lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus); the trial was considered a success as it clearly defined A. mollis as an ideal candidate for polyculture with P. canaliculus (Shiell & Knott, 2008).

Shallow reefs represent an important part of New Zealand’s marine environment; reef communities represent some of the most productive habitats in temperate marine ecosystems (Shears & Babcock, 2007). Determining the definition between the individual physical characteristics of the reefs being sampled was important for distinguishing any preference within the reef structure. The marine topography (the physical features of an area) across the reefs was examined and grouped into five classes that represented the variety of structural formations within the reefs. Ti Point is in a position of relative exposure due to its location at the mouth of the Hauraki Gulf, whilst it has Little Barrier, Great barrier islands and the Coromandel Peninsula in close proximity they offer little protection from swell waves generated in the pacific (Figure 1:3). Ti Point also experiences large wind generated waves due primarily to the fetch, which ranges between 25km to the east and an unlimited distance to the north. The predominant winds are westerly to southerly with an occasionally strong northerly to southeasterly. Flood tide currents coming into the Hauraki Gulf Flow Southwards across the mouth of Omaha Bay and ebb tide currents from the Gulf flow northwards, currents within the harbor follow the seabed contours (Figure 1:4)(Rodney District Council, 2008). 9 

Figure 1:3, Map of the entirety of Rodney District, line shows Ti Point.

Figure 1:4, Direction of currents that flow into and out of Whangateau harbor (Rodney District Council, 2008).




All field sampling and data recording was carried out by Dr. Andrew Morgan between 12th of February 2000 and 23rd of May 2001. Transect lines were run from the reefs deepest point and ran its length until the surface was reached, the number of quadrates along each transects was determined by the length of the reef. In total 22 transects were done over five sites (Figure 2:1); three at the Whangateau harbor entrance, six at Torkington bay, six around Ti Point, five at Mathesons Bay and two transects in between Mathesons Bay and Ti Point. Transects were aligned perpendicular to the coast and begun at the base of the reef, and a 2 m wide by 4m long quadrate was sampled continuously over the entire length of the transect until the top of the reef was reached (Figure 2:3). The measurements recorded within each quadrate were depth, gradient, percentage of canopy cover and reef topography (Figure 2:2; Table 2-1), boulder size proportions and the number of A. mollis found.
2.1.1 Sites

All sites were located within the Rodney region of the North Island of New Zealand.

Figure 2:1, aerial photo displaying site location names and approximate locations of transect lines(MapData Sciences PtyLtd, PSMA, 2008). Enlarged section of marine navigational chart nz-522 displaying Ti Point with approximate locations of transects marked in yellow (Land Information New Zealand (Toitu te whenua), 1999)


2.1.2 Topography


Flat Rock


Rock & Boulder


Figure 2:2, diagrams of topography recorded within quadrates

Table 2-1, Definitions of the different topographic structures recorded within each quadrate.

Type Corrugated Flat Rock Ridged Rock & Boulder Sediment

Description Undulating rock parallel to the coast line A rock face descending with little or no surface complexity A descending reef with ridges and valleys much like the base of a tree A descending reef consisting of rocks and boulders Continuous descending slope composed of particulate matter 12 

Figure 2:3, Diagram of quadrate used showing the positioning on the transect line.


All data was collated using Microsoft Excel. Summery statistics for each transect were extracted from the raw data and tabled, the data included in this table was number of quadrates done along each transect, the number counted along each transect, the mean number found along each transect and the count per m2. The transects were split into two ranges of counts determined by geographical location, the mean number of counts and a t-test were carried out on these ranges. The correlations tested were the range of counts done over all quadrates sampled against the range of each variable (listed below).


The number of counts against Depth Gradient Canopy Corrugated Flat Ridged Rock Boulder Sediment < 20cm Boulder Proportion 20-50cm Boulder Proportion 50-100cm Boulder Proportion >100cm Boulder Proportion

The data was grouped into five classes for the percentage cover the groups were 0-20, 21-40, 41-60, 61-80, 81-100 with the variables such as depth that were not of a percentage their range was divided into five equally ranges. The number of counts found within each section was reorganized according to the groping of that variable then a mean, standard deviation and confidence interval was calculated for the array of each size grouping. The graphs were then produced from the means displaying a ± 95% confidence. On each graph a trend line was produced along with an R2 value. A table was also produced with the means of each variable across each transect with totals (Appendix a).




The total number of Australostichopus mollis found was 344 across 22 transects, the highest abundance recorded in transect 5, a total of 82 individuals (Table 3-1). Only three transects had a count above 50 (4, 5 & 6) with all others recording between 1 and 32 individuals. Along transects 1, 15, 16 and 17 no A. mollis were recorded (Table 3-1). The mean number of counts over all transects sampled was 15.64 with the mean number of quadrates per transect being 11.27; the overall mean counts per transect was 1.5 and the mean total biomass was found to be 0.17 counts per m2 (Table 3-1).
Table 3-1, Displaying the name of each location & transect number. Also displaying the number of quadrates sampled at each location including total, the number of individuals found along each transect including the total number sampled, the mean abundance along each transect including the overall mean and the number per m2 for each transect and in total. Gray line delineates separation of the harbor and Mathesons bay sides.

Location Transect No # Quadrates Count µ Count Whangateau 1 1 12 0 0.0 Whangateau 2 2 12 1 0.1 Whangateau 3 3 12 32 2.7 Torkington Bay 1 4 12 62 5.2 Torkington Bay 2 5 11 82 8.2 Torkington Bay 3 6 16 73 4.9 Torkington Bay Right 1 7 9 23 2.6 Torkington Bay Right 2 8 5 12 2.4 Torkington Bay Right 3 9 3 7 2.3 Ti Point Left exposed 1 10 12 13 1.1 Ti Point Left exposed 2 11 14 12 0.9 Ti Point Left exposed 3 12 15 1 0.1 Ti Point Right exposed 1 13 16 2 0.1 Ti Point Right exposed 2 14 8 1 0.1 Ti Point Right exposed 3 15 3 0 0.0 Between Math and Ti Pt 1 16 12 0 0.0 Between Math and Ti Pt 2 17 5 0 0.0 Mathesons Bay 1 18 16 3 0.2 Mathesons Bay 2 19 14 2 0.1 Mathesons Bay 3 20 16 4 0.3 Mathesons Bay 4 21 11 9 0.9 Mathesons Bay 5 22 14 5 0.4 Totals 248 344 1.5

Count Per m2 0.00 0.01 0.33 0.65 0.93 0.57 0.32 0.30 0.29 0.14 0.11 0.01 0.02 0.02 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.02 0.02 0.03 0.10 0.04 0.17


The number of individuals per m2 found on the harbor side was much higher than that found on the Mathesons bay side (Figure 3:1), this trend was continued for both the mean percentage of canopy cover (Figure 3:2) and the mean percentage of Rock Boulder topography (Figure 3:3). Although the difference between the two sides is less marked between the transect ranges with Rock Boulder.
0.5  0.45  0.4  0.35  0.3  0.25  0.2  0.15  0.1  0.05  0  T1‐12  Transect Ranges  T13‐22 

Figure 3:1, The mean abundance Per m2 of A. mollis found on the harbor side (T1-12) compared to the Mathesons Bay side (T13-22), displaying a 95% level of confidence.

Mean Percentage of Canopy Cover 

Mean Number of Inderviduals Per  m2 

60  50  40  30  20  10  0  T1‐12  Transect Ranges  T13‐22 

Figure 3:2, The mean percentage of canopy cover found at the harbor side (T1-12) compared to the Mathesons Bay side (T13-22), displaying a 95% level of confidence.


Mean Percentage of Rock/Boulder 

100  90  80  70  60  50  40  30  20  10  0  T1‐12  Transect Ranges  T13‐22 

Figure 3:3, The mean percentage of Rock Boulder topography found at the harbor side (T1-12) compared to the Mathesons Bay side (T13-22), displaying a 95% level of confidence.


The deepest point along any transect was 15m with the largest mean abundance of Australostichopus mollis being found between the 9.1 – 12 m depth range (Figure 3:4). There was increasing mean abundance of Australostichopus within the first four depth ranges, with the final range (12.1 - 15m) dropping to just over half of the range that preceded it (Figure 3:4). There was little correlation found between the depth ranges and the mean number of Australostichopus found, this was confirmed with a R2 value of under .5 (Figure 3:4).


4.5  µ Number of inderviduals  4  3.5  3  2.5  2  1.5  1  0.5  0  0‐3m  3.1‐6m  6.1‐9m  9.1‐12m 

R² = 0.42136 


Depth ranges (m) 

Figure 3:4, Correlation regression between the mean numbers of Australostichopus mollis found within each depth class, displaying trend line with R2 value and ±95% level of confidence.

The gradient along the reefs varied from a minimum of 0° to a maximum of 60°, the largest mean abundance was found within the 24.1-36° gradient range with a mean count of 3.9 (Figure 3:5). The lowest mean abundance was found at the steepest gradient range (48.1-60°). There was almost no correlation found between the gradient and the mean abundance (Figure 3:5).
7  µ Number of inderviduals  6  5  4  3  2  1  0  0‐12 deg  12.1‐24 deg  24.1‐36 deg  36.1‐48 deg  48.1‐60 deg  Gradient ranges °  R² = 0.005 

Figure 3:5, Correlation regression between the mean numbers of Australostichopus mollis found within each gradient class, displaying trend line with R2 value and ±95% level of confidence.

The canopy cover correlations produced the second highest R2 value of all the topographic charts (Figure 3:6). Although there was not a uniform increase of individuals across the all the 18 

percentage ranges, an R2 value of above .5 or 50% was found confirming that there is some association between the mean abundance and the canopy cover (Figure 3:6). The lowest mean abundance of Australostichopus was found within the 21-40% range of canopy cover (Figure 3:6).
5  4.5  4  3.5  3  2.5  2  1.5  1  0.5  0  0‐20  21‐40  41‐60  Percentage Ranges  61‐80  R² = 0.66419 

µ Number of inderviduals 


Figure 3:6, Correlation regression between the mean numbers of Australostichopus mollis found within each canopy coverage percentage class, displaying trend line with R2 value and ±95% level of confidence.

The mean abundance of Australostichopus mollis found on corrugated reef type was very small; the highest was within the 0-20% range with only 1.5 mean individuals counted (Figure 3:7). There were no individuals counted above the 60% mark. A trend line was produced along with a R2 value above .5 confirming a degree of association (Figure 3:7).


R² = 0.58517  µ Number of inderviduals  2.5  2  1.5  1  0.5  0  0‐20  21‐40  41‐60  Percentage Ranges  61‐80  81‐100 

Figure 3:7, Correlation regression between the mean numbers of Australostichopus mollis found within each Corrugated topography percentage class, displaying trend line with R2 value and ±95% level of confidence

The results for the flat rock bottom topography was very similar to those found of the corrugated bottom topography, small mean abundance per range with the highest again being 1.5 and a sharp fall in abundance over 20% (Figure 3:8). There was a total absence between 41-60% and the 81-100% ranges. The R2 value was just above .5 or 50% stating that there was some degree of correlation. (Figure 3:8).
2.5  µ Number of inderviduals  2  1.5  1  0.5  0  0‐20  21‐40  41‐60  Percentage Ranges  61‐80  81‐100  R² = 0.50965 

Figure 3:8, Correlation regression between the mean numbers of Australostichopus mollis found within each Flat Rock topography percentage class, displaying trend line with R2 value and ±95% level of confidence.

Only a very small mean abundance per percentage range was found with regard to the ridged topography; the first percentage range had the highest mean abundance with 1.5 individuals 20 

(Figure 3:9). The lowest abundance was within the 61-80% range with a mean abundance of 0.125 individuals found (Figure 3:9). There was no occurrence of the ridged topography above 80% (Figure 3:9).
2.5  µ Number of inderviduals  2  1.5  1  0.5  0  0‐20  21‐40  41‐60  Percentage Ranges  61‐80  81‐100 

R² = 0.62765 

Figure 3:9, Correlation regression between the mean numbers of Australostichopus mollis found within each ridged topography percentage class, displaying trend line with R2 value and ±95% level of confidence.

The correlation of counts against the percentage of Rock & Boulder topography produced the highest of all correlations done (Figure 3:10). The lowest abundance was found within the 020% range and the largest within the 81-100% range. Each ranges mean was higher than the last producing a positive trend (Figure 3:10). Only the 21-40% range had a confidence interval higher than the mean figure itself (Figure 3:10).


µ Number of inderviduals 

3.5  3  2.5  2  1.5  1  0.5  0  0‐20  21‐40  41‐60  Percentage Ranges 

R² = 0.92824 



Figure 3:10, Correlation regression between the mean numbers of Australostichopus mollis found within each Rock & Boulder topography percentage class, displaying trend line with R2 value and ±95% level of confidence.

The correlation between the sediment and the number of counts displayed very little trend between the abundance and the % coverage of that topographical feature this was shown by a very low R2 value (Figure 3:11). The lowest abundance was found within the 61-80% range and the highest being within the 81-100, however the 81-100% range had a confidence interval higher than the mean of that range (Figure 3:11).


6  µ Number of inderviduals  5  4  3  2  1  0  0‐20  21‐40  41‐60  Percentage Ranges  61‐80 

R² = 0.19736 


Figure 3:11, Correlation regression between the mean numbers of Australostichopus mollis found within each Sediment topography percentage class, displaying trend line with R2 value and ±95% level of confidence.

The boulder size proportion correlations did not show any reliable or significant trend between the size of boulders and the abundance of A. mollis (Figure 3:12). There was no occurrence of the boulder size < 20cm above 40% and it had the lowest overall abundance of all the boulder size proportion correlations done (Figure 3:12-a). There was no occurrence of boulder size 20-50 cm above 80%, the highest abundance within this size class was within the 41-60% range with a mean count of 9.71 the lowest was found within the 0-20% with a mean count of 1.09 (Figure 3:12-b). The range of 61-80% the confidence interval was larger than the mean of the range (Figure 3:12-b). There was no occurrence of boulder size 50-100 cm above 80% (Figure 3:12-c). The highest abundance within the 50-100 cm size class was between the 21-40% range with a mean count of 2.97, the lowest was found within the 0-20% range with a mean count of 1.01 (Figure 3:12-c). The >100cm proportions had the least variation of abundance across all the ranges, the highest was found within the 81-100% range and had a mean count of 1.57 the lowest was found within the 61-80% range with a mean count of 1.35 (Figure 3:12-d). The minimal difference across all the ranges was exemplified by a neutral trend and low R2 value (Figure 3:12-d).





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Figure 3:12, Correlation regressions between the mean numbers of Australostichopus mollis found within each boulder size percentage range, displaying a trend line and a ± 95% level of confidence, a)< 20cm Boulder Proportion, b) 20-50cm Boulder Proportion, c) 50-100cm Boulder Proportion, d) >100cm Boulder Proportion.




Over the 22 transects sampled the mean abundance was greater along the harbor entrance side of Ti Point, between transects 1 - 12 (µ 26.5) than on the Mathesons bay side, between transects 13 - 22 (µ 2.6). This could be due to the reef structure at these sites or the complex hydrology of the tidal flow through the harbor entrance(Rodney District Council, 2008). Reef structure was similar along the harbor side of the sampled sites (Transects 1-12), however the gradient did increase the further around to the tip of Ti Point. The width of the channel between the Mangatawhiri spit and Ti Point is just 320m and it has been estimated that up to 99% of the estuary is renewed with each full tide. This huge volume of estuarine water can produce an unstable current and the formation of eddies surrounding the harbor entrance (Grace, 1972). These conditions of high turnover of the water body in and surrounding the harbor entrance could be beneficial to success of A. mollis, however it is impossible to say unless further study is undertaken in this area involving previously unrecorded variables such as Salinity, temperature, turbidity and nutrient levels in relation to the abundance of A. mollis. These variables can have a massive effect on distribution, abundance and growth, Dong, Dong, & Ji, 2008 looked at how teperature differences effected the growth rated of Apostichopus japonicus, they found that large fluctuations of temperature could retard growth rate. The prevailing southerly winds across this area would be pushing in toward Ti Point adding to the level of exposure of transects 1-12, in comparison transects 13-22 would experience increasing levels of shelter from the elements. Only two of the variables sampled along the transects showed a correlation with the abundance of A. mollis, namely the mean percentage of rock boulder and the mean percentage of canopy cover. The relationship of these variables with the abundance of A. mollis was confirmed with R2 values of above 0.5 (>50%) (Rock/Boulder = 0.93, Canopy = 0.66). The complexity of the Rock/Boulder topography could allow for sheltering as it produces a large three-dimensional substrate. There was a mean percentage of Rock/Boulder across all transects of 68.2%, the mean level per transect was high across all transects. The canopy cover had a mean across all transects of 28.9%, the mean canopy cover across transects 1-12 (42.1%) was higher than that of transects 13-22 (13.1%). The eddy current systems running along the harbor side sites (T1-12) may be having an effect on the entrainment of larval recruits increasing the abundance along those transects, similar systems have been reported 25 

(Lane, 2008). It has been noted that members of the Genus Stichopus are highly selective of their feeding patch(Uthicke & Karez, 1999). A number of the charts may have provided inaccurate R2 values due to limited ranges of data; this was evident when there was no occurrence of that particular variable above a certain percentage range or where 0 values of abundance across a number of ranges made the regression unsound. This was displayed most dramatically in Figure 3:12-a; this correlation had only two ranges and produced an R2 value of 1. From such limited data, it would be inappropriate to conclude the abundance of A. mollis was directly related to < 20cm Boulder Proportion, it must be then that the R2 value and correlation regressions done on variables with less that 5 ranges (< 20cm, 20-50cm, 50-100cm Boulder Proportion and Ridged substrate) be deemed inconclusive. Ecosystems are by their nature extremely complex and the associated variables within an ecosystem rarely follow linear patterns. (Dzeroski, 2003) found that when using comparative methods (linier regression against induction of regression trees and instance-based learning) to determining the habitat preference of Holothuria leucospilota that all three approaches used achieved similar levels of predictive accuracy.


Conclusion and Recommendations

It is possible to say that Australostichopus mollis has a high degree of association with both Rock Boulder topography and Canopy Cover, it is clear however that this system is more complex and that interactions between a number of variables could be possible. However with the statistical tests used it is not possible to determine all these interactions. Further study of Australostichopus could be aided with the cooperation of local authorities and institutions, such as the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) & Department of Conservation (DoC) who already support groups within the Rodney Region (Mahurangi College) to carry out sampling within the Whangateau harbor on other prominent species (Rodney District Council, 2008)(MapData Sciences PtyLtd, PSMA, 2008). It would be feasible to extend this study to include the recording of additional variables over an extended number of sites. Site selection should include examples from all known habitats, additional variables should include salinity, temp, turbidity, Nutrients and if possible, the hydrodynamics of the surrounding water body. A study to determine the habitat preference of the juvenile A. mollis and or alterations in abundance between day and night / sheltering behavior. 26 



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Appendix A, Table of means for each variable along each transect, displayed with totals.