Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Biodiversity inventories and conservation of the marine fishes of Bootless Bay, Papua New Guinea

Joshua A Drew15*, Charlene L Buxman12, Darcae D Holmes3, Joanna L Mandecki12, Augustine J Mungkaje4, Amber C Richardson3 and Mark W Westneat12

Author affiliations

1 Department of Zoology and Biodiversity Synthesis Center, Field Museum of Natural History, 1400 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605, USA

2 Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, The University of Chicago, 1027 E 57th St, Chicago, IL, 60637, USA

3 VOISE Academy High School, Chicago Public Schools, 231 North Pine Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60644, USA

4 Motupore Island Research Center, University of Papua New Guinea, P.O. Box 320 University Post Office, Port Moresby, National Capital District, Papua New Guinea

5 Current Address: Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, Columbia University, 1200 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10027, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Ecology 2012, 12:15  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-12-15

Published: 1 August 2012



The effective management and conservation of biodiversity is predicated on clearly defined conservation targets. Species number is frequently used as a metric for conservation prioritization and monitoring changes in ecosystem health. We conducted a series of synoptic surveys focusing on the fishes of the Bootless Bay region of Papua New Guinea to generate a checklist of fishes of the region. Bootless Bay lies directly south of Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, and experiences the highest human population density of any marine area in the country. Our checklist will set a baseline against which future environmental changes can be tracked.


We generated a checklist of 488 fish species in 72 families found in Bootless Bay during a two-week sampling effort. Using incident-based methods of species estimation, we extrapolate there to be approximately 940 fish species in Bootless Bay, one of the lowest reported numbers in Papua New Guinea.


Our data suggest that the Bootless Bay ecosystem of Papua New Guinea, while diverse in absolute terms, has lower fish biodiversity compared to other shallow marine areas within the country. These differences in faunal diversity are most likely a combination of unequal sampling effort as well as biophysical factors within Bootless Bay compounded by historical and/or contemporary anthropogenic disturbances.

Collections-based research; Shifting baselines; Biodiversity inventories; Coral reef ecosystems; Biodiversity informatics