The variability in reef‐fish species assemblages was examined at three geographic locations in the Philippines (Apo, Abra and Patn), each showing varying levels of disturbances (low to high) at two depths, shallow‐water reef (SWR; 8–20 m) and the upper mesophotic coral ecosystem (MCE; 30–35 m). Fish species assemblages varied among locations and between depths. Differences in fish assemblages among locations corresponded to the variability in benthic assemblages and levels of disturbances, wherein locations with higher coral cover and less disturbances had the highest fish species richness, abundance and biomass. Variation in fish assemblages between depths was also associated with changes in benthic assemblages and possibly inaccessibility to local fishing techniques. Fish species richness decreased with depth in all locations, but biomass increased only in the MCEs of Apo and Abra, which is a similar pattern exhibited in many MCEs. Our results suggest that despite location differences, depth had a relatively consistent influence on fish species assemblages, particularly in locations exposed to low and intermediate disturbance. Under high disturbance, MCEs exhibit similar vulnerability to SWRs.
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