Fish utilisation of wetland nurseries with complex hydrological connectivity

Davis, Benjamin, Johnston, Ross, Baker, Ronnie, and Sheaves, Marcus (2012) Fish utilisation of wetland nurseries with complex hydrological connectivity. PLoS ONE, 7 (11). e49107. pp. 1-11.

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Abstract

The physical and faunal characteristics of coastal wetlands are driven by dynamics of hydrological connectivity to adjacent habitats. Wetlands on estuary floodplains are particularly dynamic, driven by a complex interplay of tidal marine connections and seasonal freshwater flooding, often with unknown consequences for fish using these habitats. To understand the patterns and subsequent processes driving fish assemblage structure in such wetlands, we examined the nature and diversity of temporal utilisation patterns at a species or genus level over three annual cycles in a tropical Australian estuarine wetland system. Four general patterns of utilisation were apparent based on CPUE and size-structure dynamics: (i) classic nursery utlisation (use by recently settled recruits for their first year) (ii) interrupted peristence (iii) delayed recruitment (iv) facultative wetland residence. Despite the small self-recruiting 'facultative wetland resident' group, wetland occupancy seems largely driven by connectivity to the subtidal estuary channel. Variable connection regimes (i.e. frequency and timing of connections) within and between different wetland units (e.g. individual pools, lagoons, swamps) will therefore interact with the diversity of species recruitment schedules to generate variable wetland assemblages in time and space. In addition, the assemblage structure is heavily modified by freshwater flow, through simultaneously curtailing persistence of the 'interrupted persistence' group, establishing connectivity for freshwater spawned members of both the 'facultative wetland resident' and 'delayed recruitment group', and apparently mediating use of intermediate nursery habitats for marine-spawned members of the 'delayed recruitment' group. The diversity of utilisation pattern and the complexity of associated drivers means assemblage compositions, and therefore ecosystem functioning, is likely to vary among years depending on variations in hydrological connectivity. Consequently, there is a need to incorporate this diversity into understandings of habitat function, conservation and management.

Item ID: 24642
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Date Deposited: 22 Jan 2013 02:48
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960503 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960802 Coastal and Estuarine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
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