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

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Hydrobiologia, 2014, 724 (1), pp. 235 - 253
Issue Date:
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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. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.
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