Seascape and metacommunity processes regulate fish assemblage structure in coastal wetlands

Davis, Ben, Baker, Ronald, and Sheaves, Marcus (2014) Seascape and metacommunity processes regulate fish assemblage structure in coastal wetlands. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 500. pp. 187-202.

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Faunal complexity is an impediment to understanding the function of fragmented coastal wetlands. Conceiving faunal communities as part of a larger network of communities (or a metacommunity) helps to resolve this complexity by enabling simultaneous consideration of local environmental influences and 'regional' dispersal-driven processes. We assessed the role of local vs. regional factors on the fish assemblage structure of a wetland system comprising 20 tidal pools. In equivalent freshwater metacommunities, regional factors often override local influences, resulting in patterns of nestedness among patches as species and individuals are progressively filtered out along gradients of isolation. While the tidal pool assemblage was primarily structured by regional processes, patterns deviated from freshwater systems, as 2 faunal groups exhibited contrasting responses to tidal connectivity. A subset of typical estuary channel fauna was restricted to better connected pools at lower elevations, which connect to the estuary channel or other pools on most neap high tides. Frequent connections among these pools subsequently enabled sorting of species relative to preferred environmental condition (including depth and substrate). Contradicting models of nestedness, a distinct faunal group including salt marsh residents and juvenile marine-spawned taxa occurred in greater abundances in more isolated, higher elevation pools, which connect to the estuary channel or other pools only on larger spring high tides. These higher elevation pools represent a functionally unique seascape component, and colonisation by marine-spawned taxa seems to reflect an innate drive to ascend upstream gradients to access them. This illustrates how seemingly similar patches within coastal wetlands may perform considerably different nursery functions because of their position in the landscape. Together, metacommunity and seascape frameworks offer complementary perspectives in understanding the role of spatial ecology in structuring coastal ecosystem function and productivity.

Item ID: 32916
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1616-1599
Keywords: nursery grounds, estuary, salt marsh, tidal wetland, connectivity, spatial dynamics
Funders: James Cook University (JCU), Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
Projects and Grants: JCU IPRS Grant, JCU/CSIRO Tropical Landscapes Joint Venture
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2014 09:43
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960802 Coastal and Estuarine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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