, Volume 104, Issue 3, pp 369-379

Mangrove fish-communities in tropical Queensland, Australia: Spatial and temporal patterns in densities, biomass and community structure

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Abstract

Regular daylight sampling over 13 mo (February 1985–February 1986) in and adjacent to intertidal forested areas, in small creeks and over accreting mudbanks in the mainstream of a small mangrove-lined estuary in tropical northeastern Queensland, Australia, yielded 112 481 fish from 128 species and 43 families. Species of the families Engraulidae, Ambassidae, Leiognathidae, Clupeidae and Atherinidae were numerically dominant in the community. The same species, with the addition ofLates calcarifer (Latidae).Acanthopagrus berda (Sparidae) andLutjanus agentimaculatus (Lutjanidae) dominated total community biomass. During high-tide periods, intertidal forested areas were important habitats for juvenile and adult fish, with grand mean (±1 SE) density and biomass of 3.5±2.4 fish m−3 and 10.9±4.5 g m−3, respectively. There was evidence of lower densities and less fish species using intertidal forests in the dry season (August, October), but high variances in catches masked any significant seasonality in mean fish biomass in this habitat. On ebb tides, most fish species (major families; Ambassidae, Leiognathidae, Atherinidae, Melanotaeniidae) moved to small shallow creeks, where mean (±1 SE) low-tide density and biomass were 31.3±12.4 fish m−2 and 29.0±12.1 g m−2, respectively. Large variances in catch data masked any seasonality in densities and biomasses, but the mean number of species captured per netting in small creeks was lowest in the dry season (July, August). Species of Engraulidae and Clupeidae, which dominated high-tide catches in the forested areas during the wet season, appeared to move into the mainstream of the estuary on ebbing tides and were captured over accreting banks at low tide. Accreting banks supported a mean (±1 SE) density and biomass of 0.4±0.1 fish m−2 and 1.7±0.3 g m−2, respectively, at low tide. There were marked seasonal shifts in fish community composition in the estuary, and catches in succeeding wet seasons were highly dissimilar. Comparison of fish species composition in this and three other mangrove estuaries in the region revealed significant geographic and temporal (seasonal) variation in fish-community structure. Modifications and removal of wetlands proposed for north Queensland may have a devastating effect on the valuable inshore fisheries of this region, because mangrove forests and creeks support high densities of fish, many of which are linked directly, or indirectly (via food chains) to existing commercial fisheries.

Contribution No. 493 from the Australian Institute of Marine Science
Communicated by G. F. Humphrey, Sydney