, Volume 586, Issue 1, pp 1–16 | Cite as

Spatial and temporal variation in fish community structure of a marine embayment in Zanzibar, Tanzania

  • B. R. Lugendo
  • A. de Groene
  • I. Cornelissen
  • A. Pronker
  • I. Nagelkerken
  • G. van der Velde
  • Y. D. Mgaya
Primary Research Paper


Spatial and temporal variation in the fish community structure were studied in a tropical non-estuarine embayment in Chwaka Bay, Zanzibar (Tanzania). Fish samples were collected bi-monthly (at each spring low tide) for 1 year (November 2001–October 2002) from a range of bay habitats ranging from mangroves deep inside the bay to seagrass beds close to the mouth of the bay. Additionally, environmental variables were examined to determine their relationship with the fish community structure. Being a non-estuarine embayment, the environmental variables as well as the fish community structure in each habitat remained relatively constant for most part of the year; however, a marked decline was observed during the rainy period (April–May). Significant variations in fish community variables (density, biomass and species richness) and in water temperature and salinity were observed during the rainy season in all habitats, with larger changes in the mangrove and mud/sand flats habitats than in the seagrass beds. Seasonal variations in water clarity and dissolved oxygen were not significant, though. Many species disappeared from the mangrove and mud/sand flats habitats during the rainy season and those which persisted showed a remarkable decrease in density. Moreover, the results indicate that mangroves were the preferred settling habitats for Gerres filamentosus, Gerres oyena, Lethrinus lentjan and Monodactylus argenteus, especially during the dry period (December–February) before the rainy season. This observation is contrary to what has been reported from some other tropical regions where greater abundance and species richness was observed during the rainy season. A significant relationship was found between density of fish and temperature, salinity and turbidity. Since salinity was the most conspicuously changing environmental variable with seasons, we propose that salinity, alone or in combination with low visibility and temperature, was probably the most important environmental factor structuring the fish assemblage in the mangrove and mud/sand flats habitats, particularly during the rainy season.


Juvenile fish Spatial-temporal variation Community structure Mangroves Seagrasses Indian Ocean 



Field assistance was provided by M.A. Manzi, S.J. Simgeni and M.A. Makame. The administration and staff of the Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS) in Zanzibar provided logistical support and research facilities. This study was financially supported by NUFFIC through the ENVIRONS-MHO Project. A.P., A.G. and I.C. were funded by the Schure-Beijerinck-Popping Foundation and Quo Vadis Fonds (Radboud University Nijmegen), The Netherlands. I.N. was supported by a VIDI grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). This is Centre for Wetland Studies publication no. 413.

Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. R. Lugendo
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • A. de Groene
    • 2
    • 3
  • I. Cornelissen
    • 2
    • 3
  • A. Pronker
    • 2
    • 3
  • I. Nagelkerken
    • 2
    • 3
  • G. van der Velde
    • 3
  • Y. D. Mgaya
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Aquatic Sciences and TechnologyUniversity of Dar es SalaamDar es SalaamTanzania
  2. 2.Department of Animal Ecology and Ecophysiology, Institute for Water and Wetland Research, Faculty of ScienceRadboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.National Museum of Natural History, NaturalisLeidenThe Netherlands

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