Fishes in mangrove prop root habitats of northeastern Florida Bay: distinct assemblages across an estuarine gradient
Ley, JA and McIvor, CC and Montague, CL, Fishes in mangrove prop root habitats of northeastern Florida Bay: distinct assemblages across an estuarine gradient, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 48, (6) pp. 701-723. ISSN 0272-7714 (1999) [Refereed Article]
Seasonal changes in freshwater inflow and other environmental conditions may induce changes in density and species composition of mangrove fishes along estuarine gradients. Fishes within mangrove habitats in a subtropical estuary were sampled monthly from May 1989 to May 1990, using block nets with rotenone and visual censuses. At 18 stations, temperature ranged from 22 to 34 °C, depth from 10 to 104 cm and underwater visibility from 1 to 13 m. Salinity ranged from 0 to 60 upstream, and 35 to 54 mid- and downstream. A total of 573 191 individuals (76 species) was observed or collected, with an average density of 6.5 fish m-2. Engraulidae, Atherinidae, Poeciliidae and Cyprinodontidae numerically dominated the assemblage. Distinct assemblages occurred up-, mid- and downstream and maintained coherent groups in these gradient positions over the seasons. Residents totalled 94.5% of the individuals, estuarine transients comprised 5.1% and occasional marine visitors were less than 0.4%. Densities of resident fishes peaked in winter as temperatures and water levels fell, uncorrelated with changes in salinity. These observations suggest that mangrove habitats may sustain diverse and abundant fish communities dominated by euryhaline residents. Although estuarine transients were consistently rare in upstream sub-basins, downstream were found numerous sub-adults of species occurring as adults on nearby reefs (Lutjanidae, Haemulidae). Thus, reef-associated estuarine transients may be abundant in mangrove habitats having near-marine salinities. Contrary to expectations, mangrove habitats in northeastern Florida bay did not function as a nursery as defined under the nursery-ground paradigm: young-of-the-year juveniles of estuarine transient species did not seek low salinity sub-basins. However, northeastern Florida Bay may not be representative of most mangrove estuaries as the area: (1) is without lunar tides and related circulation; (2) has low and variable amounts of submersed vegetation; and (3) experiences severe hypersaline conditions.