, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 465-480

Temporal and spatial patterns in abundance and diversity of fish assemblages in Elkhorn Slough, California

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Abstract

Assemblages of ichthyofauna of shallow inshore habitats along Californía’s central coast are described in terms of species composition, abundance, and life-style categories. A total of 22,334 fishes from 65 species and 27 families was collected with otter trawls at six sites in the main channel and tidal creeks of Elkhorn Slough, a tidal embayment and seasonal estuary, and two nearshore ocean stations in Monterey Bay during 44 months between August 1974 and June 1980. Greater than 90% of the catch comprised 10 species. The four dominant species,Cymatogaster aggregata, Leptocottus armatus, Phanerodon furcatus, andEmbiotoca jacksoni, occurred during most or all seasons and were classified as residents or partial residents. Several abundant species were marine immigrants that seasonally use the slough as spawning and nursery grounds; this resulted in higher abundance and species richness during summer. Species collected during winter largely were slough residents. Species compsosition and richness varied with distance from the slough entrance. The ocean assemblage was most different, and its similarity to other stations decreased progressively with distance inland and into the tidal creeks. During our study, 5,074 fishes were collected by beach seine in Bennett Slough, a remote shallow marsh basin adjacent to the entrance of Elkhorn Slough. Species richness was relatively low and three euryhaline species accounted for >80% of the total catch. The species assemblage was most similar to those at the tidal creek and most shallow stations of Elkhorn Slough. Resident species numerically dominated assemblages in Bennett Slough and the most inland areas of Elkhorn Slough. The high relative abundance of marine-related fishes (classified as marine, marine immigrant, and partial resident), entering Elkhorn Slough early in life or as spawning adults indicates the importance of this habitat to nearshore fish assemblages.