Marine Biology

, Volume 106, Issue 1, pp 25–37 | Cite as

Factors influencing community structure and distribution of different life-cycle categories of fishes in shallow waters of a large Australian estuary

  • N. R. Loneragan
  • I. C. Potter


Fish were collected at regular intervals over 5 yr (February 1977 to December 1981) from ten shallow-water sites located throughout the lower, middle and upper regions of the large Swan Estuary in temperate southwestern Australia. Analysis of the catch data showed that the total number of species and total density of fishes were both influenced to a greater extent by site and season within the estuary than by year. The number of species and density of fishes within the whole system were greatest during the summer and autumn, when salinities and temperatures were at a maximum, and declined with distance from the estuary mouth. This reflects the trends shown by marine species, which comprise many species that occur only occasionally in the estuary (marine stragglers) and others which enter estuaries regularly and in considerable numbers (marine estuarine-opportunists). The density of marine estuarine-opportunists was also correlated with temperature, reflecting the tendency for the species of this category to congregate in the shallows during the summer and autumn. The similar seasonal aggregations of the single anadromous species and representatives of species that complete their whole life cycle in the estuary were frequently related to spawning. The density of the estuarine category was correlated neither with salinity nor distance from the estuary mouth. The number of estuarine species was also not correlated with distance from the estuary mouth. The density of freshwater species was inversely correlated with salinity and positively correlated with distance from the estuary mouth. The composition of the fish fauna changed progressively through the estuary, with that of the lower estuary being the most discrete. The composition also changed seasonally, particularly in the upper estuary where, during the winter and spring, the volume of freshwater discharge increased greatly and as a consequence the salinity declined markedly. The species diagnostic of the lower estuary were generally marine estuarine-opportunists, whereas those of the upper estuary typically belonged to either the estuarine or anadromous categories. The marine estuarine-opportunistMugil cephalus was, however, also one of the diagnostic species in the upper estuary during the winter and spring.


Shallow Water Total Density Marine Species Fish Fauna Freshwater Species 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. R. Loneragan
    • 1
  • I. C. Potter
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological and Environmental SciencesMurdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia

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