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River flow and fish abundance in a South African estuary

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The ichthyofauna of the Thukela Estuary, a small (55 ha), shallow (<1·5 m) system on the KwaZulu-Natal coast (mean annual river runoff of 3865 × 106 m3, from a large catchment of 29 000 km2, is seasonal: peak inputs occurring between November and March), was dominated by the juveniles of marine taxa that used the estuary as a nursery area. A striking feature of the above community was the decline in fish abundance with increasing river input, with flow values >100 m3 s−1 leading to increased loss of species from the system. This decline was linked to the lack of saline intrusion into the estuary and increased freshwater flooding through the system.

Keywords: Thukela Estuary; fish catch; nursery area; river volume; salinity

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, Private Bag 1015, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa and 2: Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, P. O. Box 17001, Congella 4013, South Africa

Publication date: June 1, 2003


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