Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 292–307 | Cite as

Contrasting Seascape Use by a Coastal Fish Assemblage: a Multi-methods Approach

  • Ronald BakerEmail author
  • Adam Barnett
  • Michael Bradley
  • Katya Abrantes
  • Marcus Sheaves


Understanding the range of habitats needed to complete life-cycles is essential for the effective conservation and management of species. We combined otolith microchemistry, acoustic tracking, and underwater video to determine patterns of seascape use by an assemblage of tropical snappers, including two little-known species of high economic importance, the Papuan black bass (Lutjanus goldiei) and spot-tail snapper (Lutjanus fuscescens). All species appeared to have marine larval phases, and post-settlement distributions broadly overlapped across the coastal seascape. However, species and life stages were distributed along a gradient from freshwater to coastal waters. Lutjanus fuscescens is primarily a freshwater species post-settlement, but larger individuals move into brackish estuaries and even coastal waters at times. Lutjanus goldiei appear to recruit to low salinity or freshwater areas. Larger individuals tend to have home-ranges centred on brackish estuaries, while making regular movements into both coastal waters and freshwater. Lutjanus argentimaculatus also ranged widely from fresh to coastal waters, but juveniles were most common in the saline parts of estuaries. Ontogenetic shifts by L. argentimaculatus were similar to those reported from other regions, despite vast differences in the spatial proximity of seascape components. The wide-ranging seascape movements of our target species highlight the importance of maintaining effective connectivity between marine, estuarine, and freshwaters in the region to maintain ecosystem function and support sustainable sport fisheries. The combined approaches resolved some of the ambiguities of individual methods and provide a powerful approach to understanding seascape use by coastal fishes.


Ontogeny Connectivity Otolith microchemistry Acoustic tracking Underwater video 



We thank Riccard and Nathalie Reimann of Baia Sportfishing and the people of Baia Village for their support of this research, Lina Pandihau of the Papua New Guinea National Fisheries Authority for assistance with field work and logistical planning, Dr. Yi Hu of the Advanced Analytical Centre at JCU for training and advice on LA-ICPMS, and Mark O’Callaghan for advice on the preparation of otoliths for analysis.

Author Contributions

All authors designed the study and collected the samples; MB sectioned and aged otoliths, and conducted LA-ICPMS; RB analysed the otolith microchemistry data; AB analysed the acoustic tracking data; MB conducted and analysed the underwater video census; RB wrote the paper with input from all authors.

Funding Information

This research was funded by the Papua New Guinea National Fisheries Authority and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research under grant FIS-2013-015. RB was partly supported by a fellowship from the Tropical Landscapes Joint Venture between the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Oganisation and James Cook University.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Field work was conducted in collaboration with and permission of the Papua New Guinea National Fisheries Authority. All applicable institutional and national guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed, and this work was completed in accordance with JCU’s animal ethics guidelines under JCU Ethics Permit A2308.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

12237_2018_455_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (3.8 mb)
ESM 1 (PDF 3897 kb)


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald Baker
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Adam Barnett
    • 1
  • Michael Bradley
    • 1
    • 2
  • Katya Abrantes
    • 1
    • 2
  • Marcus Sheaves
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Marine Biology and Aquaculture Unit, College of Science and EngineeringJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.TropWATERJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.University of South Alabama, Dauphin Island Sea LabDauphin IslandUSA

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