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  • Quantitative surveys were undertaken at five sites in the Kent Group, north eastern Tasmania (Murray Pass, Winter Cove, Little Squally Cove,and southern end of Erith Island) by divers using underwater visual census methods to survey the reef habitat. Additional spot dive surveys were undertaken at northern side of East Cove, Garden Cove, Winter Cove, Squally Cove (Deal Island), northern and southern sides of West Cove (Erith Island) and north east and north west coasts of Dover Island. Divers recorded numbers of sea urchins (Centrostephanus rodgersii and Heliocidaris erythrogramma), as well as extent of urchin barrens, size of algal patches, and measured boundaries of macroalgal patches of Macrocystis angustifolia, Phyllospora comosa and Ecklonia radiata-fucoid communities. Spot dives detailed additional qualitative observations of C. rodgersii.

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    The long spined sea urchin Centrostephanus rodgersii (Diadematidae) has recently undergone poleward range expansion to eastern Tasmania (southeast Australia). This species is associated with barrens habitat which has been grazed free of macroalgae, and therefore has potentially important consequences for reef structure and biodiversity. This study used urchin removal experiments from barrens patches in eastern Tasmania to monitor the subsequent response of the macroalgae relative to unmanipulated barrens patches. In removal patches, there was a rapid proliferation of canopy-forming macroalgae (Ecklonia radiata and Phyllospora comosa), and within 24 months the algae community structure had converged with that of nearby areas without urchins. Faunal species richness was comparatively low in barrens habitat, with C. rodgersii grazing activity resulting in an estimated minimum net loss of approximately 150 taxa compared with intact macroalgal habitats.