Spatial and temporal variability in ichthyoplankton communities ingressing through two adjacent inlets along the southeastern US Atlantic coast


Estuaries along the US east coast serve as essential nursery habitats for the early life history stages of many marine fishes. In the South Atlantic Bight (SAB), many studies have demonstrated the importance of these habitats for juveniles, but larval fish communities have received little attention, particularly around northeast Florida. To determine community structure, and seasonal distribution and abundance of larval fish in the Guana–Tolomato–Matanzas (GTM) estuary at its two inlets (St. Augustine and Matanzas), ichthyoplankton were sampled bi-weekly for one year at both inlets during nighttime spring flood tides. Samples were collected with a plankton net (1 m diameter, 1 mm mesh) suspended 1 m below the surface. Seventy-two taxa were collected, with four families comprising 85% of the collection: Sciaenidae (36.2%), Engraulidae (19.9%), Gobiidae (18.0%), and Gerreidae (10.7%). The two inlets differed in larval densities and taxonomic richness, although both were greatest during the summer. Spring and summer pulses in recruitment were observed for nearshore summer spawners. Marine offshore-spawned species exhibited peak recruitment in winter. The ichthyoplankton communities of the GTM estuary were most similar to those in southern SAB estuaries, and showed pronounced seasonal changes in composition, as is common in estuaries worldwide.

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Funding for this project was provided by the Oscar and Catherine A. Munoz Presidential Fellowship at the University of North Florida and by the Northeast Florida Association of Environmental Professionals, both awarded to BMK. The authors would like to extend special thanks to National Parks Service Personnel at Fort Matanzas National Monument (K. Foote, A. Rich), and the St. Augustine Municipal Marina (S. Adukiewicz) for providing access to field sites. Additional appreciation is extended to faculty and staff at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Lab (particularly S. Muffelman) for assistance with fish identification, the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (W. Eash-Loucks, T. Harding) for field sampling support, and the North Inlet-Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (J. Plunket) for assistance with GIS. This manuscript was greatly improved by critical reviews from C. Hackney and E. Johnson. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. This research was conducted pursuant to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Special Activity License number SAL-11-1035B-SR.

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Correspondence to Breanna M. Korsman.

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Korsman, B.M., Kimball, M.E. & Hernandez, F.J. Spatial and temporal variability in ichthyoplankton communities ingressing through two adjacent inlets along the southeastern US Atlantic coast. Hydrobiologia 795, 219–237 (2017) doi:10.1007/s10750-017-3131-5

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  • Ichthyoplankton
  • Larval fish
  • Ingress
  • Inlet
  • Estuary
  • South Atlantic Bight