, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 31-41

Marine, brackish, and freshwater fish communities in the vegetated and bare shallows of an Australian Coastal River

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Abstract

Fish communities found in the marine, brackish, and freshwater shallows of the Clarence River (New South Wales, Australia) were sampled over a 12-mo period to compare communities inhabiting bare and vegetated substrata. A total of 26,107 fish representing 57 species and 36 families was collected biomonthly suing a 6-mm mesh siene. Permanent residents (i.e., species found throughout the year) were primarily gobies (Gobiidae) and gudgeons (Eleotridae). Juveniles of many species found as adults in other parts of the river were seasonally abundant in the shallows. Most numerous was a small ambassid, the glassy perchlet (Ambassis jacksoniensis), the majority of which was collected from marine and brackish regions of the river. Firetail gudgeons (Hypseleotris compressus) were caught in highest numbers at the freshwater sites. Cluster analysis suggested that fish communities in widely separated vegetated sites were more similar to each other than to those in adjacent bare sites. Shallow vegetated (Zostera capricorni) habitats in the marine region of the river had greatest diversity and highest abundances of fish, particularly during recruitment periods. At these times, juveniles of many commercially important species were captured, including yellowfin bream (Acanthopagrus australis), sea mullet (Mugil cephalus), flat-tail mullet (Liza agentea), tarwhine (Rhabdosargus sarba), luderick (Girella tricuspidata), silver biddy (Gerres subfasciatus), and sand whiting (Sillago ciliata). The vegetated (Vallisneria gigantea) sites in the brackish region also had significantly more species and individuals during recruitment periods (spring) than bare sites. Although freshwater vegetated sites consistently had more individuals than freshwater bare sites, there were no significant differences in species richness between vegetated and bare habitats. The need to conservatively manage shallow-water fish habitats is stressed. *** DIRECT SUPPORT *** A01BY073 00004