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Data is PCR amplification results of southern rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii) faecal material tested for sea urchin DNA (using unique primers for Centrostephanus rodgersii and Heliocidaris erythrogramma) in an attempt to determine in situ rates of consumption of sea urchins by lobsters. An efficient and non-lethal method was used to source and screen lobster faecal samples for the presence of DNA from ecologically important sea urchins. Lobster faecal samples were collected from trap caught specimens sourced in winter & summer seasons over 2 years (2009-2011) within two no-take research reserves; declared specifically for the purpose of rebuilding large predatory-capable lobsters to assess the potential for predator-driven remediation of kelp beds on rocky reefs extensively overgrazed by sea urchins (North Eastern Tasmania) and reefs showing initial signs of overgrazing (South Eastern Tasmania). Data for molecular assays showed high variability in the proportion of lobsters testing positive to sea urchins, with significant variability detected across different years and seasons but this was found to vary depending on different lobster size-classes. Sea urchin DNA was also amplifiable from sediments and urchin faeces collected from the reef surface where urchins occurred in high abundance. Furthermore, positive sea urchin DNA assays were obtainable from lobster faeces after lobsteres were fed sediment and urchin faecal material. Rates of predation obtained with genetics tests can also be compared to independent rates of urchin losses given known lobster abundances within research reserves (and at control sites). Data of changes in urchin abundances and lobster abundances are therefore also lodged as part of this record.
Quantitative surveys were undertaken at four sites in the Kent Group, north eastern Tasmania (southern and northern shores of East Cove at Deal Island, Winter Cove at Deal Island, NE coast of Dover Island) by divers using underwater visual census methods to survey the reef habitat.
The effect of barrens formed by the long spined sea urchin, Centrostephanus rodgersii, on the standing stocks of southern rock lobsters (Jasus edwardsii) and black lip abalone (Haliotis rubra) was estimated by divers using underwater visual census methods to compare lobster and abalone abundance in barrens with that in adjacent kelp habitat. Abalone (H. rubra) and rock-lobster (J. edwardsii) populations were compared on C. rodgersii barrens and in adjacent algal-dominated habitat at the same depth and on the same substratum type at three sites in eastern Tasmania (Elephant Rock:Binalong Bay, St Helens Is, and Mistaken Cape:Maria Island). At Elephant Rock and St Helens Island , the barrens are extensive and well established Type 1 barrens, while at Mistaken Cape the barrens in 8-14 m are incipient Type 4 barrens, comprising small barren patches in the algal bed (see FRDC report for classification of barren types). Note that while there are extensive barrens in deeper water (>18 m) at Mistaken Cape, at these depths working time is limited and it was difficult to locate intact macroalgal beds on equivalent substrata.
Belt transect surveys (50m) were used to monitor the benthic community structure through time at experimental (lobster additions/ research reserve sites or abalone diver urchin culls) and control sites in eastern Tasmania. Measures of percentage cover of key algal guilds, percentage of reef grazed by sea urchins, number of sea urchins (Centrostephanus rodgersii, Heliocidaris erythrogramma), Abalone (Haliotis Rubra), Rock lobsters (Jasus edwardsii) and type of substratum were recorded.