, Volume 724, Issue 1, pp 235–253 | Cite as

Changes in rocky reef fish assemblages throughout an estuary with a restricted inlet

  • Jason K. Morton
  • William Gladstone
Primary Research Paper


Rocky reef habitat is common in many estuaries, yet its role as a habitat for fishes is poorly understood. There is also limited understanding of how access of coastal species into estuaries and habitat quality can affect the distribution of rocky reef fishes within estuaries. This study used baited remote underwater video stations to determine spatial patterns in fish assemblages associated with rocky reef habitat throughout a barrier estuary with a permanently open but restricted inlet. Estuarine rocky reefs provided habitat for a diverse assemblage of fishes, many of which were large juveniles and subadults. In the absence of a pronounced salinity or temperature gradient, a clear transition in fish assemblages occurred from coastal waters, through the inlet channel, to the central estuary, and into the inner estuary. The inlet channel, notably its narrowness and length, limits tidal input into this estuary, which acts as a significant impediment to the dispersal of many coastal fishes, and insufficient habitat excludes many coastal rocky reef species from the inner estuary. This study highlights the need to recognise estuarine rocky reefs as providing habitat for diverse fish assemblages and the role inlets play in restricting access of coastal species.


Estuary mouth configuration Barrier estuaries Fish dispersal Estuarine fishes Fish habitat Larval dispersal 



We are grateful to Thomas Finch, Wayne Miller, Megan Cousins and Brett Adams for volunteering to assist with site inspections and the deployment of the BRUVS. Special thanks to Ian Campbell for assistance in the field and collection of data from video footage. This research was sponsored by a Lake Macquarie Research Grant. The Lake Macquarie City Council and various sponsors fund the Lake Macquarie Research Grants. The 2007/2008 sponsors included Delta Electricity, Centennial Mandalong, Hunter Water Corporation, Oceanis Coal Australia Ltd and Eraring Energy.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Science and MathematicsAvondale College of Higher EducationCooranbongAustralia
  2. 2.School of the EnvironmentUniversity of Technology, SydneyBroadwayAustralia

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