, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 63-77

Fish and invertebrate assemblages in seagrass, mangrove, saltmarsh, and nonvegetated habitats

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Abstract

Many studies compare utilization of different marine habitats by fish and decapod crustaceans; few compare multiple vegetated habitats, especially using the same sampling equipment. Fish and invertebrates in seagrass, mangrove, saltmarsh, and nonvegetated habitats were sampled during May–August (Austral winter) and December–January (Austral summer) in the Barker Inlet-Port River estuary, South Australia. Sampling was undertaken using pop nets in all habitats and seine nets in seagrass and nonvegetated areas. A total of 7,895 fish and invertebrates spanning 3 classes, 9 orders, and at least 23 families were collected. Only one fish species,Atherinosoma microstoma, was collected in all 4 habitats, 11 species were found in 3 habitats (mangroves, seagrass, and nonvegetated), and 13 species were only caught in seagrass and nonvegetated habitats. Seagrass generally supported the highest numbers of fish and invertebrates and had the greatest species richness. Saltmarsh was at the other extreme with 29 individuals caught from two species. Mangroves and nonvegetated habitats generally had more fish, invertebrates, and species than saltmarsh, but less than seagrass. Analyses of abundances of individual species generally showed an interaction between habitat and month indicating that the same patterns were not found through time in all habitats. All habitats supported distinct assemlages although seagrass and nonvegetated assemblages were similar in some months. The generality of these patterns requires further investigation at other estuaries. Loss of vegetated habitats, particularly seagrass, could result in loss of species richness and abundance, especially for organisms that were not found in other habitats. Although low abundances were found in saltmarsh and mangroves, species may use these habitats for varying reasons, such as spawning, and such use should not be ignored.