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Assessing patterns in habitat utilization and changes in the composition of biont assemblages is a key tool for efficient ecosystem conservation planning and management. Nevertheless, habitat use patterns by juvenile fish still need more comprehension. Therefore, the presently reported study investigated relations between the type of nursery ground and the structure of juvenile fish assemblages in a tropical coastal area of the south-western Atlantic. From December 2009 to November 2010, we conducted monthly sampling of ichthyofauna in two habitat types (mangrove and sandy beach) used as nursery grounds by juvenile fish of the south-western Atlantic.Species richness and abundance were used to identify spatial and temporal patterns in the distribution of fish assemblages throughout habitats’ dynamics. A total of 845 fishes representing 16 families and 34 species were found during the presently reported study: Albula vulpes (Linnaeus, 1758); Atherinella brasiliensis (Quoy et Gaimard, 1825); Strongylura marina (Walbaum, 1792); Tylosurus acus acus (Lacepède, 1803); Caranx crysos (Mitchill, 1815); Caranx latus Agassiz, 1831; Oligoplites saurus (Bloch et Schneider, 1801); Selene setapinnis (Mitchill, 1815); Selene vomer (Linnaeus, 1758); Centropomus parallelus Poey, 1860; Centropomus undecimalis (Bloch, 1792); Harengula clupeola (Cuvier, 1829); Opisthonema oglinum (Lesueur, 1818); Anchoa tricolor (Spix et Agassiz, 1829); Anchovia clupeoides (Swainson, 1839); Diapterus auratus Ranzani, 1842; Diapterus rhombeus (Cuvier, 1829); Eucinostomus argenteus Baird et Girard, 1855; Eucinostomus gula (Quoy et Gaimard, 1824); Eucinostomus melanopterus (Bleeker, 1863);Bathygobius soporator (Valenciennes, 1837); Conodon nobilis (Linnaeus, 1758); Haemulon plumierii (Lacepède, 1801); Haemulopsis corvinaeformis (Steindachner, 1868); Hemiramphus brasiliensis (Linnaeus, 1758); Lutjanus apodus (Walbaum, 1792); Lutjanus griseus (Linnaeus, 1758); Lutjanus jocu (Bloch et Schneider, 1801); Mugil brevirostris (Ribeiro, 1915); Mugil curema Valenciennes, 1836; Mugil curvidens Valenciennes, 1836; Paralichthys tropicus Ginsburg, 1933; Sphyraena barracuda (Edwards, 1771); Sphoeroides testudineus (Linnaeus, 1758). No significant differences in species richness and total abundance were found between habitats and seasons. Nevertheless, our analyses showed that distinct sets of species use these areas. Moreover, we identified a strong relation between the rainfall and the species turnover in both habitats studied. Diversity of nursery grounds in coastal areas not only increases fish diversity but also plays an important role in the sustaining fish stocks.
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Victor E. L. DA SILVA 1*, Elizabeth C. TEIXEIRA 2, Vandick S. BATISTA 2, and Nidia N. FABRÉ 1
1 Laboratory of Ecology, Fish and Fisheries, Federal University of Alagoas, Maceió, Brazil
2 Laboratory of Conservation and Management of Fishery Resources, Federal University of Alagoas, Maceió, Brazil
Da Silva V.E.L., Teixeira E.C., Batista V.S., Fabré N.N. 2018. Spatial distribution of juvenile sh species in
nursery grounds of a tropical coastal area of the south-western Atlantic. Acta Ichthyol. Piscat. 48 (1):
Background. Assessing patterns in habitat utilization and changes in the composition of biont assemblages is
a key tool for efcient ecosystem conservation planning and management. Nevertheless, habitat use patterns
by juvenile sh still need more comprehension. Therefore, the presently reported study investigated relations
between the type of nursery ground and the structure of juvenile sh assemblages in a tropical coastal area of the
south-western Atlantic.
Materials and methods. From December 2009 to November 2010, we conducted monthly sampling of
ichthyofauna in two habitat types (mangrove and sandy beach) used as nursery grounds by juvenile sh of the
south-western Atlantic. Species richness and abundance were used to identify spatial and temporal patterns in the
distribution of sh assemblages throughout habitats’ dynamics.
Results. A total of 845 shes representing 16 families and 34 species were found during the presently reported
study: Albula vulpes (Linnaeus, 1758); Atherinella brasiliensis (Quoy et Gaimard, 1825); Strongylura marina
(Walbaum, 1792); Tylosurus acus acus (Lacepède, 1803); Caranx crysos (Mitchill, 1815); Caranx latus Agassiz,
1831; Oligoplites saurus (Bloch et Schneider, 1801); Selene setapinnis (Mitchill, 1815); Selene vomer (Linnaeus,
1758); Centropomus parallelus Poey, 1860; Centropomus undecimalis (Bloch, 1792); Harengula clupeola (Cuvier,
1829); Opisthonema oglinum (Lesueur, 1818); Anchoa tricolor (Spix et Agassiz, 1829); Anchovia clupeoides
(Swainson, 1839); Diapterus auratus Ranzani, 1842; Diapterus rhombeus (Cuvier, 1829); Eucinostomus argenteus
Baird et Girard, 1855; Eucinostomus gula (Quoy et Gaimard, 1824); Eucinostomus melanopterus (Bleeker, 1863);
Bathygobius soporator (Valenciennes, 1837); Conodon nobilis (Linnaeus, 1758); Haemulon plumierii (Lacepède,
1801); Haemulopsis corvinaeformis (Steindachner, 1868); Hemiramphus brasiliensis (Linnaeus, 1758); Lutjanus
apodus (Walbaum, 1792); Lutjanus griseus (Linnaeus, 1758); Lutjanus jocu (Bloch et Schneider, 1801); Mugil
brevirostris (Ribeiro, 1915); Mugil curema Valenciennes, 1836; Mugil curvidens Valenciennes, 1836; Paralichthys
tropicus Ginsburg, 1933; Sphyraena barracuda (Edwards, 1771); Sphoeroides testudineus (Linnaeus, 1758).
No signicant differences in species richness and total abundance were found between habitats and seasons.
Nevertheless, our analyses showed that distinct sets of species use these areas. Moreover, we identied a strong
relation between the rainfall and the species turnover in both habitats studied.
Conclusion. Diversity of nursery grounds in coastal areas not only increases sh diversity but also plays an
important role in the sustaining sh stocks.
Keywords: sh fauna, habitat heterogeneity, mangrove, nursery grounds, sandy beach
ACTA ICHTHYOLOGICA ET PISCATORIA (2018) 48 (1): 9–18 DOI: 10.3750/AIEP/02299
* Correspondence: Victor Emmanuel Lopes da Silva, Universidade Federal de Alagoas, Instituto de Ciências Biológicas e da Saúde, Laboratório de Ecologia, Peixes e
Pesca, Av. Lourival Melo Mota - Tabuleiro do Martins, 57072-900, Alagoas, Brazil, phone: +55 82 9-9843-9768, e-mail: (VELS), (ECT), (VSB), (NNF)
Coastal and estuarine habitats play an important role in
growth, feeding, and protection of many species (Blaber
and Blaber 1980, Barletta et al. 2005, Vasconcelos et
al. 2010), especially by serving as nursery grounds for
juveniles of marine, freshwater, and estuarine-resident
and brackish-water shes (Beck et al. 2003, Elliott et
al. 2007). Though frequently credited for sustaining sh
stocks (Beck et al. 2003, Crona and Rönnbäck 2007),
these ecosystems, in the global scale, have been impacted
by intense habitat degradation processes, mostly caused
by human activities (Baptista et al. 2015, Freedman et al.
2016). For instance, the transformation of mangrove areas
into shrimp farms along with the shrinking of seagrass
coverage due to water quality degradation and increasing
beach pollution in tropical regions have been vastly
associated with losses of sh diversity and remarkable
declines in shery catches (Arthington et al. 2016). As a
Da Silva et al.
result, natural and anthropogenic impacts on coastal biota
have been constantly assessed by ecologists, but some
processes still demand more comprehension, such as the
reciprocal relations between the species and the local
Furthermore, our poor understanding of habitat use
patterns by juvenile sh makes conservation planning in
coastal areas a really challenging task (Barletta et al. 2010).
This particular problem can be blamed on numerous studies
that treated these areas as a homogeneous environment,
disregarding their diversity reected by different habitat
types, such as, mangroves, seagrass beds, sandy beaches,
and mudats (Nagelkerken et al. 2000a, Beck et al. 2003,
Minello et al. 2003). Moreover, many eld studies in
these ecosystems are often carried out in single habitats,
because responsible researchers are often discouraged
by their structural complexity, making comparisons of
fauna composition difcult (Nagelkerken et al. 2000a).
This further translates into a lack of reliable information
on the ecosystem as a whole. Mangroves, for instance,
have traditionally received considerable attention from
scientic community due to their distinct features, such
as high structural complexity and greater food abundance
(Vendel and Chaves 2006, Vilar et al. 2011, Castellanos-
Galindo and Krumme 2014). Consequently, other
habitats, especially those without vegetation coverage,
such as coastal sandy beaches, have been less-intensively
investigated (Santos and Nash 1995, Barletta et al. 2010,
Rodrigues and Vieira 2013, Lacerda et al. 2014, Blaber
and Barletta 2016).
Since different coastal habitats have distinct features
(e.g., structural complexity) and dynamics, it is likely that
they may vary in their ecological functions as nursery
grounds (Beck et al. 2003). Thus, identifying patterns
in habitat utilization and changes in the composition
of assemblages is extremely necessary for proper
conservation planning and management of shery
resources in these environments (Barletta et al. 2010,
Blaber and Barletta 2016). In this respect, our study
intended to assess patterns in the distribution of juvenile
sh assemblages in a coastal area from the south-western
Atlantic, considering its availability of nursery grounds
and possible relations between species and environmental
conditions. Specically, we used species richness and sh
abundance to answer the following questions:
Is the structuring of juvenile sh assemblages in these
areas associated with the different types of habitats used
as nursery grounds?
Which (and how) environmental conditions affect the
spatial distribution of juveniles in these habitats?
Study area and sh sampling. The study was carried out in
the Santo Antônio River estuary (9º24′50′′S, 35º30′24′′W),
located on the north-eastern coast of Brazil, South
America (Fig. 1). The shes were sampled monthly using
a monolament beach seine (15 m wide, 2 m high, and
5-mm mesh size) from December 2009 through November
2010 at four sites located in two different habitat types.
Two sites were situated on the left bank of the estuary,
covered with mangrove forest dominated by Rhizophora
mangle, Avicennia schaueriana, and Laguncularia
racemosa, whereas the other two sites were located in
the shallow waters of a sandy beach (mean depth ≤ 1.5
m) adjacent to the estuary mouth. Each site was sampled
once per month (a total of 48 samples) for 5 min and only
one net type was used to minimize impacts on the existent
fauna. Upon capture, all shes collected were kept on ice.
In the laboratory, each individual was identied to species
level following regional taxonomic keys (Figueiredo and
Menezes 1978, 1980, Menezes and Figueiredo 1980,
Atlantic Ocean
Santo Antônio River
0 5
Fig. 1. The Santo Antônio River estuary located on the
north-eastern coast of Brazil, indicating the location of
sampling sites (●)
During eldwork, water physicochemical parameters,
such as salinity [‰], temperature [°C], and dissolved
oxygen [%] were also measured at each site before sh
sampling using a Hanna HI 9828 multi-parameter water
quality portable meter. Monthly rainfall data [mm] were
obtained from the National Institute of Meteorology
(INMET), and these data were used to identify seasonal
trends. The rainy season was dened as the period from
March through August (monthly rainfall 205.4 ± 133.4
mm) and the dry season from September through February
(64.5 ± 63.8 mm).
Data analysis. Non-parametric Kruskal–Wallis test was
used to identify spatial and seasonal patterns in environ-
mental conditions for both habitats since data did not meet
the assumptions of normality and homoscedasticity even
after transformations. Variations in species richness and
total sh abundance were tested between the mangrove
and sandy beach sites, and over time (dry and rainy rea-
son) using two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). Prior
to analysis, data were log-transformed (lnn + 1) to reduce
the effect of data aggregation. Normality and homoge-
neity of datasets were then tested by Shapiro–Wilk and
Levene’s tests, respectively.
Differences in the composition of sh assemblages
among habitats and seasons were assessed by two-way
analysis of similarity (ANOSIM) using the Bray–Curtis
similarity coefcient (Clarke 1993). To further identify
patterns in assemblages, we also performed a non-metric
Juvenile sh in coastal nursery habitats 11
multidimensional scaling (nMDS) (Anderson and Walsh
2013). Subsequently, species which contributed the most
to the total dissimilarity between samples were identied
using a similarity percentage analysis (SIMPER).
Furthermore, interactions between species abundance
and environmental conditions were investigated by
canonical correspondence analysis (CCA). CCA was
chosen after we tested the gradient length of species
composition by detrended correspondence analysis
(DCA) as suggested by ter Braak (1995). Environmental
variables were previously tested for collinearity by
Pearson’s correlations with a threshold of 0.7 (Dormann
et al. 2012). The two rsts components’ scores and factor
loadings of CCA were then plotted to detect general
gradients in ecological and environmental descriptors.
Additionally, the Monte-Carlo permutation test was used
to determine if the correlations found between species
and environmental conditions were statically signicant.
All analyses were performed in the software R statistics
with the package ‘Vegan’ (Oksanen 2016) at a signicance
level of P < 0.05.
The presently reported study has been carried out in
accordance with Brazilian regulations (Federal Scientic
Fish Sampling Licence 1837810).
The annual precipitation reached 1610 mm and
approximately 76% of this total fell during the rainy
season (March through August). Water temperature and
dissolved oxygen did not differ between habitats and
seasons (P > 0.05). Salinity was higher and stable during
the entire year in the sandy beach (P > 0.05), whereas in the
mangrove a seasonal trend could be observed (P < 0.05).
This trend was characterized by the decreasing of salinity
at the end of the dry season, reaching the lowest values
during the months with high rainfall rates (Fig. 2).
A total of 845 shes representing 16 families and 34
species were collected during the study period: Albula
vulpes (Linnaeus, 1758); Atherinella brasiliensis (Quoy
et Gaimard, 1825); Strongylura marina (Walbaum,
1792); Tylosurus acus acus (Lacepède, 1803); Caranx
crysos (Mitchill, 1815); Caranx latus Agassiz, 1831;
Oligoplites saurus (Bloch et Schneider, 1801); Selene
setapinnis (Mitchill, 1815); Selene vomer (Linnaeus,
1758); Centropomus parallelus Poey, 1860; Centropomus
undecimalis (Bloch, 1792); Harengula clupeola (Cuvier,
1829); Opisthonema oglinum (Lesueur, 1818); Anchoa
tricolor (Spix et Agassiz, 1829); Anchovia clupeoides
(Swainson, 1839); Diapterus auratus Ranzani, 1842;
Diapterus rhombeus (Cuvier, 1829); Eucinostomus
argenteus Baird et Girard, 1855; Eucinostomus gula
(Quoy et Gaimard, 1824); Eucinostomus melanopterus
(Bleeker, 1863); Bathygobius soporator (Valenciennes,
1837); Conodon nobilis (Linnaeus, 1758); Haemulon
plumierii (Lacepède, 1801); Haemulopsis corvinaeformis
(Steindachner, 1868); Hemiramphus brasiliensis
(Linnaeus, 1758); Lutjanus apodus (Walbaum, 1792);
Lutjanus griseus (Linnaeus, 1758); Lutjanus jocu
(Bloch et Schneider, 1801); Mugil brevirostris (Ribeiro,
1915); Mugil curema Valenciennes, 1836; Mugil
curvidens Valenciennes, 1836; Paralichthys tropicus
Ginsburg, 1933; Sphyraena barracuda (Edwards, 1771);
Sphoeroides testudineus (Linnaeus, 1758) (Table 1). Fish
assemblages were mainly comprised of juveniles (73% of
total abundance). In terms of number of individuals, the
most abundant species in the mangrove were Atherinella
Temperature [°C]
llafniaR ]mm[
y [‰]tinilaS
DO [%]
Mangrove Sandy beach Dry season Rainy season
Fig. 2. Rainfall, mean water temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen registered in the mangrove and the sandy beach
studied at the Santo Antônio River estuary during December 2009 and November 2010
Da Silva et al.
brasiliensis (20.5%), Mugil curema (17.8%), Caranx latus
(12.2%), Diapterus rhombeus (Cuvier, 1829) (10.5%),
Eucinostomus melanopterus (9.9%), and Anchovia
clupeoides (9.2%), whereas in the sandy beach the most
important species in number, besides A. brasiliensis
(20.9%), C. latus (17.9%), and M. curema (13.5%), were
Mugil curvidens (9.5%), Haemulopsis corvinaeformis
(9.2%), and Hemiramphus brasiliensis (8%). Fourteen of
these species were exclusively found in mangrove sites,
while nine occurred only in the sandy beach area. The eleven
species that occurred in both habitats accounted for 70%
of total abundance. Even though higher species richness
and abundance were registered in some samples from
mangrove than from sandy beach (Fig. 3), no signicant
differences between habitats and among seasons were
found (ANOVA, P > 0.05), neither an interaction between
these two factors could be observed (ANOVA, P > 0.05,
see Table 2 for the total ANOVA output).
While no signicant differences in the structure of
assemblages between seasons were found (ANOSIM, R =
0.16, P > 0.05), sh composition varied signicantly between
mangrove and sandy beach sites (ANOSIM, R = 0.1982,
P < 0.05) (Fig. 4). According to SIMPER analysis, these
differences were partly due to uctuations in the abundance
of common species to both habitats (e.g., Atherinella
brasiliensis and Mugil curema), as well as the exclusive
occurrence of a few species in only one habitat, such as
Diapterus rhombeus in the mangrove and Haemulopsis
corvinaeformis in the sandy beach (Table 3, Fig. 5).
Though some environmental conditions showed a
certain degree of correlation (Table 4), none of them
presented collinearity (R > 0.7), therefore CCA was
performed including all four studied variables. The two
rst axes of CCA explained 65% of total variation in the
relation between species and environmental conditions.
Considering their vectors length and the Monte Carlo
permutation test, rainfall was found to be the most
signicant factor inuencing the distribution and
abundance of most species (Fig. 6, P < 0.05).
Many factors can be associated with temporal
and spatial changes in species composition of coastal
environments, such as substrate type (Nagelkerken et
al. 2000b), uctuations in environmental conditions—
especially, salinity, temperature and dissolved oxygen—
(Harrison and Whiteld 2006, Ooi and Chong 2011),
and inter- and intraspecic relations (Elliott et al. 2007).
However, habitat utilization patterns in nursery grounds
are still partly unclear. For example, although mangrove
vegetation coverage is often related to the sustaining
of future sh populations, providing food and shelter
availability for juveniles (Nagelkerken et al. 2001, Beck
et al. 2003, Sales et al. 2016), the absence of signicant
differences in species richness and total sh abundance
reported in our study and in some other earlier works
(Blaber et al. 1989, Sichum and Tantichodok 2013) shows
that non-vegetated areas, such as sandy beaches, are also
suitable environments for several species.
Differences in the composition of juvenile sh
assemblages from mangrove and sandy beach found in
our data indicate that different sets of species use these
areas as nursery grounds. Such variability may result
from specialization in habitat exploitation by species
and by habitat dynamics (Igulu et al. 2014, Ebner et al.
2016). The ability to use different environments within
single ecosystems may depend on species trophic level,
morphological characteristics, and functional attributes
(Matthews et al. 2010, Mouillot et al. 2013, de Andrade
et al. 2015). For instance, sh which inhabit a greater
variety of habitats typically present distinct physiologic
adaptations, intraspecic variability in sh behaviour
(Bourke et al. 1997, Silva-Falcão et al. 2012) and greater
functional specialization and originality (Sales et al.
2016). Our results support this information as species
which were common to both habitats (e.g., Atherinella
brasiliensis and Mugil curema) have been previously
reported in literature as presenting high plasticity in
their diet (Rueda 2002, Contente et al. 2010) and great
tolerance to changes on environmental conditions that are
typical of coastal environments (Neves et al. 2006, Albieri
et al. 2010).
Fluctuations of the environmental conditions are closely
related to the structure of sh assemblages (Blaber et al.
1989, 2010, Harrison and Whiteld 2006) and habitat
selection by species (Porter and Church 1987, Bernardo
Mangrove Beach Mangrove Beach
ssenhcir seicepS
Dry season Rainy season
Mangrove Beach Mangrove Beach
ecnadnubA [n rep ]luah
Dry season Rainy season
Fig. 3. Variation (mean ± SD) in the species richness
(A) and total sh abundance (B) among habitats and
seasons in the Santo Antônio River estuary
Juvenile sh in coastal nursery habitats 13
Table 1
Total number of individuals (n) and relative abundance in percentage (Ab%) of sh species caught in microhabitats
of the Santo Antônio River estuary during December 2009 and November 2010
Family Species Mangrove Sandy beach
nAb% nAb%
Albulidae Albula vulpes — — 14 4.32
Atherinopsidae Atherinella brasiliensis 105 20.5 68 20.9
Belonidae Strongylura marina 30.58 2 0.61
Tylosurus acus acus 1 0.19 — —
Carangidae Caranx crysos 5 0.98 1 0.30
Caranx latus 63 12.3 58 17.9
Oligoplites saurus — — 9 2.77
Selene setapinnis — — 10.30
Selene vomer — — 10.30
Centropomidae Centropomus parallelus 14 2.74 — —
Centropomus undecimalis 71.37 — —
Clupeidae Harengula clupeola — — 15 4.62
Opisthonema oglinum 1 0.19 — —
Engraulidae Anchoa tricolor — — 10.30
Anchovia clupeoides 48 9.41 — —
Gerreidae Diapterus auratus 20.39 — —
Diapterus rhombeus 55 10.7 — —
Eucinostomus argenteus 20.39 13 4.01
Eucinostomus gula 1 0.19 — —
Eucinostomus melanopterus 52 10.1 30.92
Gobiidae Bathygobius soporator 4 0.78 — —
Haemulidae Conodon nobilis — — 10.30
Haemulon plumierii 30.58 — —
Haemulopsis corvinaeformis 30 9.25
Hemiramphidae Hemiramphus brasiliensis 5 0.98 26 8.02
Lutjanidae Lutjanus apodus 14 2.74 1 0.30
Lutjanus griseus 30.58 — —
Lutjanus jocu 20.39 — —
Mugilidae Mugil brevirostris 1 0.19 — —
Mugil curema 93 18.2 44 13.5
Mugil curvidens 14 2.74 31 9.56
Paralichthyidae Paralichthys tropicus 1 0.19 — —
Sphyraenidae Sphyraena barracuda — — 10.30
Tetraodontidae Sphoeroides testudineus 11 2.15 4 1.23
Table 2
Two-way ANOVA results for species richness and total abundance of studied sh assemblages
Factor Species richness Total abundance
Habitat 1 1.44858 2.38 0.1386 15.43127 2.50 0.1284
Season 1 0.05846 0.09 0.7598 1 0.93749 0.43 0.5181
Interaction 1 0.40655 0.66 0.4234 12.13074 0.98 0.3331
Df = degree of freedom, MS = mean sum of squares, F = F-statistic, P = P-value.
et al. 2003). In tropical regions, for instance, variations
in dissolved oxygen, salinity, and rainfall often affect sh
movements and migration, inuencing total density and
biomass (Barletta et al. 2005, Gaonkar et al. 2013, Campbell
and Rice 2014). In our study, rainfall was found to be the
main driver of spatial variability among juvenile sh fauna.
In general, over the studied period, changes in rainfall rate
coincided with remarkable changes in species composition
in both habitats. However, it is important to notice that
rainfall affected their dynamics in different ways.
In the mangrove, the rainfall was negatively correlated
with the salinity, creating a seasonal trend in this habitat.
Many authors have indicated that the salinity was the
main factor structuring sh assemblages in coastal areas
Da Silva et al.
(Barletta et al. 2005, Whiteld et al. 2012, Campbell
and Rice 2014). Specically, shifts in the salinity create
a stressful environment for different species which are
typical of these areas (e.g., marine, freshwater, estuarine-
resident and brackish-water species), as each group has
a distinct osmoregulatory capacity (Whiteld et al. 2012,
Telesh et al. 2013), causing species to respond differently
to the salinity gradient. Moreover, the salinity regime
promotes changes in organic matter, nutrients, and in
dissolved and particulate matter, affecting dissolved
oxygen levels (Campbell and Rice 2014) and turbidity
(Barletta et al. 2005). These, in turn, may limit the
abundance and occurrence of many species (de Jonge
and de Jong 2002). On the other hand, since the salinity
did not vary in the sandy beach throughout the year, the
rainfall appeared to be more associated with the discharge
of waters from continental environments, which increases
primary and secondary productivity (Oliveira and Kjerfve
1993, Pereira et al. 2015). Besides, wave actions in these
environments tend to be stronger during the rainy season,
producing a remineralization process of organic matter,
which makes a greater quantity of nutrients in water
column available, also increasing productivity levels
(Rodrigues and Vieira 2013, Lacerda et al. 2014). Greater
food availability increases sh diversity and makes the
environment more suitable for several species, especially
for juveniles which depend on high food availability for
growth (Jones 1986).
In conclusion, the results found herein provide some
insights about the spatial arrangement of juvenile of sh
species in nursery grounds of coastal areas. Our data
suggest that the distinct dynamics of habitats located
in coastal areas allows different sets of species to
inhabit them, not only increasing sh diversity but also
playing a key role in the sustaining of sh stocks. Such
information is supported by the absence of differences in
species richness and total sh abundance in studied sh
assemblages, and by the occurrence of distinct species in
both habitats. Furthermore, we also highlighted rainfall
as the main seasonal factor inuencing, directly and
indirectly, the spatial structuring of juvenile assemblages
-0.5 0 0.5
2 etanidrooC
Coordinate 1
Stress: 0.1693
Fig. 4. nMDS ordination of sh abundance per sample
among microhabitats in the Santo Antônio River
estuary; each point represents a sample: ■ mangrove
(rainy season); □ mangrove (dry season); ● sandy beach
(rainy season); ○ sandy beach (dry season)
A. brasiliensis C. latus M. curema
M. curvidens D. rhombeus H. corvinaeformis
Mangrove Sandy beach Dry season Rainy season
ecnadnubA [n rep luah ]
Fig. 5. Fluctuations on the abundance of most common species from the Santo Antônio River estuary
Juvenile sh in coastal nursery habitats 15
in coastal nursery grounds. However, further investigation
on long-term changes in habitats’ dynamics is necessary
for a better understanding of how this variable affects the
sh composition. Our work provides essential data for
understanding shifts in the species composition, which
are extremely necessary for the development of effective
conservation plans for ecosystems as a whole.
We would like to thank colleagues Any Lopes,
Cibele Tiburtino, Jordana Rangely, and Marcia Sousa
for their assistance during eld and laboratory work.
This study was supported by the Brazilian National
Council for Scientic and Technological Development
- CNPq (V.S.B., grant number 303469/2013-7; N.N.F.,
grant number 306624/2014-1); and the Coordination for
the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel - Capes.
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Table 3
Species identied by SIMPER analysis as responsible for total dissimilarity between assemblages in the mangrove
and the sandy beach
Species Dissimilarity Mangrove [Ab%] Sandy beach [Ab%]
Contribution [%] Accumulated [%]
Mugil curema 19.55 19.55 15.47 8.85
Atherinella brasiliensis 16.00 35.56 17.86 16.60
Caranx latus 10.56 46.11 10.66 14.30
Mugil curvidens 7.58 53.70 2.33 6.25
Eucinostomus melanopterus 7.23 60.94 8.67 0.65
Hemiramphus brasiliensis 5.23 66.17 0.83 5.45
Diapterus rhombeus 4.93 71.10 9.17 0.00
Anchovia clupeoides 4.89 75.99 8.00 0.00
Haemulopsis corvinaeformis 3.78 79.78 0.00 6.00
Harengula clupeola 3.47 83.25 0.00 3.10
Albula vulpes 3.37 86.63 0.00 3.50
Ab% = relative abundance in percent.
-2.5 -2 -1.5 -1 -0.5 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5
]%92[ 2ACC
CCA1 [36%]
Fig. 6. Canonical correspondence analysis ordination
bi-plot based on species found in estuarine habitats
(● mangrove; ○ sandy beach; both) from the Santo
Antônio River in relation to environmental variables
(arrows; DO% = dissolved oxygen)
Table 4
Pearson correlation matrix for the environmental
variables measured
oxygen 1.00
Rainfall –0.23 1.00
Salinity 0.51 –0.61 1.00
Temperature 0.48 –0.20 0.61 1.00
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Received: 29 August 2017
Accepted: 2 January 2018
Published electronically: 31 March 2018
... The seagrass beds were predominantly composed of marine phanerogams, particularly species from the Halodule genus, which are prevalent in the region (Marques and Creed, 2008). The mangrove stations were located near the estuary's banks, covered by a mangrove forest primarily dominated by Rhizophora mangle, Avicennia schaueriana, and Laguncularia racemose (da Silva et al., 2018;Pessanha et al., 2015). ...
... However, in tropical habitats, fluctuations in rainfall rates often emerge as the primary drivers of fish assemblage dynamics (Macedo et al., 2021(Macedo et al., , 2023. This is primarily attributed to the strong correlation between rainfall and many abiotic parameters, particularly salinity, which significantly impacts coastal assemblages (da Silva et al., 2018;Barletta, 2004;Blaber, 2013;Sosa-López et al., 2006). Salinity variations may restrict the presence or entry of various species into different coastal habitats, especially those influenced by estuarine areas, due to distinct physiological adaptations for osmoregulation that species have (Herbst, 2001;Sosa-López et al., 2006). ...
... Dry Rainy da Silva et al., 2018;da Silva and Fabré, 2019). In our results, this can be observed in the seasonally variations of estuarine resident fish, which increases in biomass during the rainy season and has a decrease during the dry season in two habitats, the mangrove and in the beach (Fig. 2). ...
... As a result, C. latus larvae are mostly found offshore along the continental shelf (Berry, 1959;Campos et al., 2010). Juveniles, however, are commonly found within estuaries or along sand beaches (Figueiredo and Menezes, 1980;da Silva et al., 2018), which they apparently occupy for a few months or years before joining the offshore adult population (Figueiredo and Menezes, 1980;Smith-Vaniz, 2002). This potential for habitat-specific differences in growth calls for a more comprehensive description of C. latus growth, encompassing the diversity of habitats used throughout their life Novak et al., 2020). ...
... In inshore areas, both seasonal changes in temperatures (Morrongiello et al., 2014;Doubleday et al., 2015) and in freshwater inputs have been shown to mainly influence fish growth (Cardona, 2000;Diouf et al., 2009;Isnard et al., 2015). Although C. latus juveniles inhabit estuaries with varying salinities in north-east Brazil (Paiva and Araújo, 2010;Medeiros et al., 2017), their global occurrence in these inshore habitats is rather low in periods of high freshwater inputs (da Silva et al., 2018), suggesting that they experience physiological limitations when local salinities drop. Because temperature in the area also reaches its lowest values (~25 • C) during the rainy season, the reduction in fish metabolism and somatic growth in the estuaries at this time of the year probably explains the generalized opaque band formation (associated with slowest otolith growth rates) at this time period in our fish sample. ...
In this study, we investigated the size-at-age structure and growth of the horse-eye jack (Caranx latus), a highly mobile neritic species with significant commercial value in many parts of the tropical southwest Atlantic. For this, we combined size (standard length – SL) data and otolith readings from 282 juvenile and adult specimens of the species captured across a range of inshore (estuaries) and offshore habitats spread along the Brazilian coast between 2017 and 2019. Both otolith edge-type interpretation and marginal-increment width analysis suggested that annuli are deposited only once a year for C. latus in this part of the world, the opaque band being formed between May and August. The growth parameters estimated by the growth model that fitted best our size-at-age data (von Bertalanffy) were 782.37 mm for Linf, 0.179 for k and − 0.436 years for t0. Interestingly, fish ages differed between local inshore and offshore habitats: 91.8% of the individuals captured in the estuaries (36–223 mm SL) were age-0 fish, while all age groups (0–13 years) were found in the offshore marine area, where sizes ranged from 155 to 760 mm SL. Growth is apparently the fastest in the first year of life, allowing to reach up to 22.75% of the local maximum size expected for the species at one year. These results can inform fishery and ecosystem management strategies in Brazil but also elsewhere, as the present study provides the first assessment of C. latus growth in the South-Western Atlantic based on detailed size-at-age data for most life stages and lifetime habitats.
... These estuarine and coastal species are one of the main components of ecosystems' functioning and resilience (Baptista et al., 2015;da Silva and Fabré, 2019), as they perform a wide range of functions throughout their life history cycle, including the control and the transport of organic matter between different environments (Lebreton et al., 2011). Hence, it is not a surprise that ecologists have always tried to understand the drivers and patterns of temporal and spatial occurrence of fishes in these ecosystems (Barletta-Bergan et al., 2002;Henriques et al., 2017;da Silva et al., 2018). ...
... For example, the nursery role of seascapes has been recently re-evaluated using a spatial perspective, and authors showed that the nursery value of habitats that comprise the coastal mosaic may vary between species and throughout fish development (Nagelkerken et al., 2015). In tropical regions, though mangroves and seagrass beds have always been credited as fundamental areas for fishes (Mumby et al., 2004), many studies have shown that species which are dependent on these habitats may also use other environments (i.e., sandy beaches and mudflats) throughout their life history (Gillanders et al., 2003;Vasconcelos et al., 2010;da Silva et al., 2018). Indeed, the diversity of habitat types appears to enhance the effectiveness of coastal areas as nurseries, since only a few species are confined to a single nursery ground, with mobile species connecting adjacent habitats through migrations to seek shelter and/or food resources (Nagelkerken et al., 2008(Nagelkerken et al., , 2015. ...
The identification of patterns in habitat use by fish guilds may provide an integrated perspective of coastal mosaics. Thus, we used multivariate analyses to assess the relative importance of habitat types for fish guilds based on density and species composition throughout a seasonal event in the northeastern coast of Brazil. Our results showed a great variability of responses found for each functional group, with species composition of guilds that are estuarine-related being affected by habitat types (p=0.001) and seasons (p=0.008), whereas the facultative estuarine users showed no significant relationship with both variables (p=0.95). Specific habitat association patterns were not found for guilds, though solely estuarine species (p=0.041) and marine straggler fishes (p=0.027) were related to environmental conditions that varied greatly with seasonality (i.e., rainfall and salinity rates), indicating that temporal changes in the region allow species from different guilds to explore the whole coastal mosaic at different scales of space and time. For this reason, we highlight that the integrated protection of beaches, mangroves and seagrass compose an imperative strategy to sustain the complexity of inshore coastal areas that are highly productive for coastal fisheries and fundamental to maintain coastal livelihoods.
... The neritic ecosystem is represented by the entire continental shelf (Garcia et al., 2003), but our sample of trophic groups (detailed from section 2.3 onwards) were obtained up to the 10 m isobath. In this study, neritic and estuary were considered ecologically distinct ecosystems due to the physical-chemical and biotic components spatial variations and the ecological function that each one plays for the fish species (Passos et al., 2016;Neto et al., 2015;Ferreira et al., 2019;da Silva et al., 2018). ...
Coastal marine ecosystems have structural and functional features usually connected by the seasonal transfer of nutrients and organisms. These environments can utilize inter-ecosystem subsidies to increase resilience and maturity and support human activities like fishing. However, the importance of the connection and the role of the seasonal pulse of energy flows to enhance maturity are still poorly understood and reported. Our objective in this paper is to assess the effect of seasonal hydrological pulses on two tropical coastal interconnected ecosystems. Thus, we made four Ecopath models for estuarine and neritic environments considering the dry and rainy seasons, with a similar sampling design that allowed them to be compared. Our results provide evidence for the occurrence of the pulsed ecosystems since both environments seem driven by the river flow. Estuary presents more and more substantial differences (measured by ecosystem attributes) in both seasons because it is directly affected by river floods than the neritic environment. The neritic is affected indirectly by the movement of species from the estuary and by a weaker river flow. In the dry season, the differences between ecosystems are lower because the dry season trend to homogenize cycling, maturity, homeostasis, and resilience. We found that the seasonal river flow (pulse) forces the variability of biomass, flows, and ecosystem features, and this variance creates the required stability for both ecosystems. Still, these environments benefit through the exchange of components that relieve the pressures of predation on specific groups and maintain the energy flow necessary for the functioning of their trophic webs. The pulse by the rainfall favors connectivity and equalizes the two systems, increasing the connectivity between them and the exchange of subsidies that strengthens the trophic structures, contributing to the increase in maturity. In these ecosystems, seasonal changes become a key factor for exchanging flows that will promote sustainability, the accumulation of more biomass (growth), and the optimization of reserve energy (development) in both systems. This efficient joint strategy of perpetuation is what promotes resistance and resilience to these ecosystems, which together can reach different states of equilibrium, translated into maturity to withstand new environmental changes.
... West regions are most productive (Chl a >1 mg.m -3 ) from May to October, coinciding with the southwest monsoon period (Yapa, 2012). The spawning of fish is generally concentrated in nearshore gyres, likely facilitating the return of larvae to the productive coastal areas which act as nursery grounds (Johannes, 1978;Da Silva et al., 2018). Ichthyoplankton results from the present study corroborate that spawning likely occurs close to the productive coastal regions. ...
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Fundamental understanding of fish resources has become a crucial need in Sri Lanka for the sustainable management of fish stocks. Knowledge of ichthyoplankton essential in identifying the spawning dynamics of fish is scarce in this region of the Indian Ocean. A survey was conducted in 2018 covering different monsoon seasons to monitor the abundance, distribution, and diversity of ichthyoplankton along the west coast of Sri Lanka. Samples collected using vertical and horizontal WP2 hauls showed a total of 4095 fish eggs, with identification possible only to 3 families: Clupeidae, Engraulidae, and Cynoglossidae and 465 larval fish belonging to 23 families. The most dominant families recorded were the Siganidae, Blenniidae, Clupeidae, Gobiidae, and Engraulidae, which highlight the importance of pelagic and demersal fish along the west coast. A significant temporal pattern in egg abundance was observed with the highest abundance in March (535 10 m-3) in vertical WP2 net hauls. Furthermore, significant differences in spatial patterns of larval abundance were seen in vertical and horizontal samples. High larval fish abundances were recorded in March and during September-November, with northern regions generally having the highest abundances (~36 larvae 10 m-3). The spawning coincides with the productive southwest monsoon period (May to September). The high diversity and abundance of eggs and larvae recorded in this study indicate that the west coast is likely an important spawning and nursery ground for demersal and pelagic fish.
This study aimed to evaluate the importance of inshore estuarine habitats for the maintenance of offshore exploited stocks of the horse-eye jack (Caranx latus), a marine tropical species of high economic value. Otoliths of 143 yearlings were used to develop a dataset of multi-elemental fingerprints for different juvenile habitats of C. latus in northeastern Brazil, including seven estuaries and the coastal zone. This dataset was then compared to the signatures in the juvenile part of the otolith of 40 sub-adult and adult fish caught at sea to identify their origin. Although otolith multi-elemental concentrations overlapped for some of the estuaries investigated, the maximum overall discrimination accuracy between them was only 58%. However, grouping several estuaries according to their similarity in elemental signatures increased accuracy to 80%. In both cases, correct re-assignment rates for the coastal zone were above 94%, and strontium was the most significant element in juvenile habitat discrimination. The remaining elements (B, Ba, Co, P, Rb, Sr and Zn) allowed for distinguishing between three distinct groups of estuaries, for which correct re-assignment rates were 70-88%. Juvenile fingerprints in sub-adult and adult otoliths revealed that most of the fish in the local exploited stock (75%) originate from an inshore estuarine habitat, particularly from larger estuaries under the constant marine influence (32.5%). This biological connectivity between continental and coastal waters should be taken into account for the conservation of tropical marine coastal stocks in general, as it is likely to apply to other exploited marine species, in Brazil and elsewhere.
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The damming in a watershed alters all its fluvial dynamics, affecting the patterns of occurrence and distribution of the fish community. Despite being an important refuge for fish communities in tropical Brazil, the river-estuarine continuum is strongly affected by human activities that have considerably disturbed the natural dynamics. In this study, our objective was to evaluate the spatial and seasonal composition of the fish community in three distinct regions along the river-estuarine continuum of the São Francisco River, raising the hypothesis that the seasonal effect does not interfere in the structuring of the fish assemblage. Our results demonstrate that sea-sonality does not influence the composition and distribution of fish species in the lower São Francisco, this differentiation is due to the spatial effect of the regions studied. These findings add to the available knowledge about the absence of the seasonal effect in highly dammed environments.
This chapter summarizes the composition of fish species found in estuaries, mangroves, and salt marshes along the Brazilian coast regarding species richness, latitudinal and environmental occurrence, and artisanal fisheries. Literature surveys and scientific records on 37 sites evidenced the presence of 604 fish species distributed in 123 families; 579 are teleosteans and 24 elasmobranchs. The results are presented in tables of species with the respective occurrences and 90 photos of the most abundant species.KeywordsMangrove fishesSalt marsh fishesTeleosteansElasmobranchs
The white mullet, Mugil curema, is a commercially important species in coastal areas, with a large phenotypic variability and genetic dissimilarity among populations throughout its distribution. For management purposes it is important to determine whether the morphological variability reflects the genetic differences among groups. This study evaluates whether the genetic differentiation in Mugil curema is reflected in the otolith shape on a large geographic scale in the Neotropical Atlantic and the Mexican Pacific. We analyzed the COI (Cytochrome Oxidase I) gene polymorphism as a marker and followed the otolith contour-based Fourier analysis as a morphometric method. Seven locations were studied, four in coastal lagoons of the Gulf of Mexico, one in the Mexican Pacific, one in the Caribbean Sea at Nueva Esparta, Venezuela and one in San Antonio Lagoon, Brazil. The genetic divergence accounted by the COI and the morphological differentiation in M. curema otoliths did not, in general, present cross-scale patterns, and the variability of otolith shapes was not reflected in the mitochondrial genetic variability. Other molecular methods could potentially reveal genetic differences. In particular, the variability in otolith shape among the Gulf of Mexico individuals may indicate that local divergences are accumulated in the otoliths, reflecting a possible interaction effect between local and regional drivers that is not evidenced at the genetic level.
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Morphoanatomical or physiological changes coupled with changes in body size are known as allometric relationships. The objective of this study was to identify the points of growth changes in Centropomus based on otolith morphometry and morphogeometry. For this purpose, 455 individuals of C. undecimalis and 176 of C. parallelus were collected from artisanal fishermen of the coast of the state of Alagoas, Brazil. The sagittal otoliths were measured for length, height, perimeter, area and weighed. The potential and polyphasic models were fitted between total fish length and otolith length. The morphotypes otoliths wen describe by form Fourier descriptors and shape indices. The polyphasic model detected three growth phases. The first stanza for C. undecimalis was at 46.8 cm and the second at 75.9 cm. For C. parallelus, it was at 18.8 cm and at 41.2 cm. Each stanza has a specific otoliths morphotype in both species. The otoliths of C. undecimalis and C. parallelus exhibited ontogenetic allometric changes in their growth pattern with two stanzas changing points. The stanzas corresponded to specific lengths reached by individuals over their life cycles, such as their size at maturity and length at sexual reversion.
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Resource managers use restoration to offset estuarine habitat loss; however, there is limited information about how functionally successful restorations have been, particularly with respect to use by mobile marine predators. Restoration monitoring efforts typically use point-of-capture metrics to assess fish community recovery and habitat use, but this provides little insight on how fish habitat use changes through time. Using translocation experiments, we integrated the movements of California Halibut (Paralichthys californicus), a conservation target species, into a point-of-capture monitoring program in a restored tidal creek estuary. Larger Halibut (>25 cm) were captured more frequently in the main stream Channel, while small Halibut (<25 cm) were typically caught in the innermost marsh creeks. We actively acoustically tracked Halibut (n=20; size range = 26.6-60.5 cm TL) to identify their preferred habitats and challenged these habitat associations with translocations to a different habitats. Large Halibut showed a trend of small LoCoH activity spaces and remained in areas with high water flow and sandy substratum near eelgrass beds. Individuals translocated to Marshes returned to the Channel and exhibited large movement distances from their initial location to their last tracked position; however, Halibut translocated from Marshes to the Channel remained in Channel habitat and had comparatively smaller distances between their first and last tracked points. Large Halibut likely selected the Channel because higher water flow could lead to higher prey concentrations. Small Halibut used Marshes more frequently, likely because Marshes have temperatures thought to maximize growth rates. Our study can serve as a proof of concept that linking point capture and tracking data can provide valuable information to restoration including that Halibut utilize estuaries in a size-segregated manner based on environmental conditions. This suggests that tidal creek estuaries with a variety of channel types and morphologies, like our study site, may be well-suited to support Halibut.
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The differences between fish assemblages in three microhabitat types, in relation to vegetation and sediment characteristics of a hypersaline estuary located in an semi-arid zone in north-eastern Brazil, were investigated. Fishes were collected using a beach seine during the rainy and dry seasons in 2012. A total of 78 species were recorded, with the most common families being Gerreidae, Lutjanidae and Tetraodontidae. The majority of species were represented by juveniles, with Eucinostomus argenteus, Ulaema lefroyi and Sphoeroides greeleyi being the dominant species. The fish assemblage structures differed significantly among microhabitat types, with the narrow intertidal flat adjacent to the mangrove fringe supporting the most diverse fish fauna. In addition, only 27 species were common to all of the microhabitats. The results support the hypothesis that hypersaline estuaries serve as important nursery areas for various reef fish species, due to the structural complexity provided by their macroalgae beds and mangroves.
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Species richness, abundance, diversity and fish assemblage patterns in seagrass beds, mangroves, mudflats and sandy beaches were investigated at Had Khanom Mu Ko Thale Tai National Park, Thailand. Fish samples were collected using a beach seine during the day on alternate months between February and December 2009. The juvenile fishes and adults of small sized fishes accounted for 95.6% in total catch. In total, 131 species from 48 families were collected. Of these, 76, 74, 55 and 47 species were caught in seagrass beds, mangroves, mudflats and sandy beaches, respectively. Leiognathidae was the most diverse family present in seagrass beds, mudflats and sandy beaches, with seven species obtained at each habitat. The most diverse family (13 species) in mangroves was Gobiidae. The three most abundant species in each habitat represented more than 60% of the catches although they showed temporal variations in abundance. Abundance and diversity indices varied spatially with the highest values occurring in seagrass beds and mangroves. Significant temporal variation was only observed in the abundance data with the lowest value in February. Four general patterns of fish assemblages were identified (G1 to G4) by cluster analysis, loosely based on habitat preference. Species such as Siganus javus, Ambassis kopsii, and Leiognathus decorus are considered generalists and commonly found in all habitat types sampled. Ambassis nalua, Ambassis vachellii, and Scatophagus argus were exclusively found in mangroves while Siganus canaliculatus, Monacanthus chinensis, and Terapon puta were only found in seagrass beds. Temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, salinity and transparency of the water were monitored. While spatio-temporal variation was evident, they did not predict fish assemblage patterns. Only the fish assemblage patterns in the mangroves could be correlated to the parameters measured using linear discriminant analysis, with a prediction success of 83 %.
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The "Manual de Peixes Marinhos do Sudeste do Brasil" includes all the species that occur in the area, with a brief description, geographical distribution and illustration of each one and references to the other species along the Brazilian Coast. It is based on the examination of all the specimens in the fish collection of the Museu de Zoologia da USP, and elsewhere.
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Sampling of the demersal ichthyofauna of Guanabara Bay was conducted bimonthly for 2 years at 10 stations distributed along a hydrobiological gradient. A total of 16,081 Tetraodontiformes specimens were collected, representing 10 species distributed among Ostraciidae, Monacanthidae, Tetraodontidae and Diodontidae. Tetraodontiformes appear to be well adapted to hydrological variations and inhospitable conditions prompted by intense eutrophication. However, abiotic factors traditionally considered important in estuarine community structure play a secondary role in the distribution of Tetraodontiformes. The type of sediment appears to be the most important physical factor but acts only as an indicator of ecological domain. The low explanatory power of physicochemical variables, in addition to the relative stability of the bay’s ichthyofauna, suggests an influence of biological parameters. The species exhibited wide variation in their use of Guanabara Bay and utilized it as a resting, feeding and growing area. Among the species captured, Stephanolepis hispidus, Lagocephalus laevigatus, Sphoeroides greeleyi, Sphoeroides testudineus, Sphoeroides tyleri, Chilomycterus reticulatus and Chilomycterus spinosus were categorized as marine estuarine opportunists, and Aluterus heudelotii and Aluterus schoepfii were classified as marine stragglers. Acanthostracion sp. could not be categorized. The boom of C. spinosus indicates an ecological misbalance and must be carefully investigated.
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Hypoxia is thought to have negative effects on fish in coastal ecosystems, but quantifying those effects can be difficult. Direct exposure to hypoxia can reduce fish growth or survival, but fish can also rapidly detect and avoid low dissolved oxygen levels. However, avoidance behavior may result in indirect effects that reduce fish growth. For example, when hypoxic conditions expand, fish densities may increase in nearshore oxygenated refuges, potentially causing density-dependent reductions in growth. We evaluated this hypothesis for juvenile demersal fish species (primarily spot Leiostomus xanthurus and Atlantic croaker Micropogonias undulatus). By monitoring water quality and fish density across the Neuse River Estuary, North Carolina, USA, under varying water quality conditions during summer 2007, we showed that fish effectively avoided hypoxia despite rapidly changing conditions (minutes to hours), moving away from incursions of hypoxic water and then rapidly redistributing into affected areas after these events passed. Fish densities in nearshore oxygenated refuges increased nearly 2-fold when habitat was compressed by hypoxic waters. Spot in compressed refuges also had significantly less food in their stomachs during June. Based on published estimates of density-dependent spot growth, we estimated that average spot growth rate was reduced 17% during habitat compression events, which occurred 21.5% of the time, translating into an average reduction in growth rate of 4% over the summer. This likely is a conservative estimate of indirect hypoxia effects on growth, as hypoxia was relatively mild in 2007, and density dependence is only one indirect mechanism by which hypoxia may potentially reduce growth.
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Identification of critical life-stage habitats is key to successful conservation efforts. Juveniles of some species show great flexibility in habitat use while other species rely heavily on a restricted number of juvenile habitats for protection and food. Considering the rapid degradation of coastal marine habitats worldwide, it is important to evaluate which species are more susceptible to loss of juvenile nursery habitats and how this differs across large biogeographic regions. Here we used a meta-analysis approach to investigate habitat use by juvenile reef fish species in tropical coastal ecosystems across the globe. Densities of juvenile fish species were compared among mangrove, seagrass and coral reef habitats. In the Caribbean, the majority of species showed significantly higher juvenile densities in mangroves as compared to seagrass beds and coral reefs, while for the Indo-Pacific region seagrass beds harbored the highest overall densities. Further analysis indicated that differences in tidal amplitude, irrespective of biogeographic region, appeared to be the major driver for this phenomenon. In addition, juvenile reef fish use of mangroves increased with increasing water salinity. In the Caribbean, species of specific families (e.g. Lutjanidae, Haemulidae) showed a higher reliance on mangroves or seagrass beds as juvenile habitats than other species, whereas in the Indo-Pacific family-specific trends of juvenile habitat utilization were less apparent. The findings of this study highlight the importance of incorporating region-specific tidal inundation regimes into marine spatial conservation planning and ecosystem based management. Furthermore, the significant role of water salinity and tidal access as drivers of mangrove fish habitat use implies that changes in seawater level and rainfall due to climate change may have important effects on how juvenile reef fish use nearshore seascapes in the future.
Morays occupy unique interstitial habitats and function as key predators in marine ecosystems. Conversely, there is limited understanding of the ecology of Gymnothorax polyuranodon, the lone representative of the family Muraenidae known to reside in freshwater systems. In this study, we used field-based encounters over a 3-year period in three short–steep–coastal–streams of the Australian Wet Tropics to find that most G. polyuranodon individuals (74%) occupied pools, with very few individuals observed in run (23%) or riffle (3%) mesohabitats. Moreover, G. polyuranodon positively selected microhabitats of slow flow (<0.05 ms−1) and deep water (>80 cm), while avoiding high flows (>0.5 ms−1) and shallow water (<40 cm depth). Morays exhibited strong preferences for boulders (73% of the immediate stream bed area occupied relative to 36% availability) with most individuals resting directly underneath large or very large boulders. Collecting and compiling records of this rare and elusive species over the long-term helped to reveal such habitat specialisation. Future management plans for G. polyuranodon should focus on preserving boulder interstices year-round and maintaining stream-sea connectivity to facilitate a diadromous life cycle.
The use of intertidal sandy beaches by fish and macrocrustaceans was studied at different temporal scales at the mouth of a tropical estuary. Samples were taken along the lunar and diel cycles in the late dry and rainy seasons. Fish assemblage (number of species, density and biomass), crustaceans and wrack biomass, showed significant interactions among all studied factors, and the combination of moon phase and diel cycle, resulting in different patterns of environmental variables (depth, water temperature and dissolved oxygen), affected habitat use by the different species. Variances in faunal community were detected between seasons, stimulated by salinity fluctuations from freshwater input during the rainy season. These differences suggest an important cycling of habitats and an increase in connectivity between adjacent habitats (estuary and coastal waters). Moreover, the results showed that this intertidal sandy beach also provides an alternative nursery and protected shallow-water area for the initial development phase of many marine and estuarine species. In addition, this intertidal habitat plays an important role in the maintenance of the ecological functioning of the estuarine–coastal ecosystem continuum.