Diel variation in mangrove fish abundances and trophic guilds of northeastern Australian estuaries with a proposed trophodynamic model
Diel activity patterns of tropical fish assemblages in turbid, mangrove-dominated estuaries remain largely undocumented, leading to uncertainty about ecological processes in these systems. To capture active fishes by day and night, gill nets were set perpendicular to mangrove shorelines, in six northeastern Australian estuaries during 13 bimonthly trips. Fish were sampled with eight large mesh (102–151 mm) nets, set for 6 hrs (1500–2100), and checked hourly (1146 day, 635 dusk, 872 night checks). Four smaller mesh (19–51 mm) nets were also set for 1 hr before and after sunset (77 day, 78 night checks). Of 157 total species, 22 were netted exclusively before sunset and 47 exclusively after sunset. All of the top 26 species were present both day and night, but of these, 46% were primarily nocturnal (diel index > 0.65). An average of 77.2 fish hr−1 were netted by day vs 171.4 by night. Within the 400 km coastal region, assemblages differed between two northern wave-dominated (WD) estuaries and four southern tide-dominated ('I'D) estuaries. In all six estuaries Lates calcarifer (Bloch, 1790) dominated night assemblages. In 'I'D estuaries, night assemblages were also dominated by Thryssa hamiltoni Gray, 1835 and Eleutheronema tetradactylum (Shaw, 1804); while in WD estuaries Herklotsichthys castelnaui (Ogilby, 1897), Leiognathus equulus (Forsskål, 1775), and Megalops cyprinoids (Broussonet, 1782) were dominant at night. Nocturnal species included planktivores and carnivores, while daytime assemblages were dominated by detritivores (Mugillidae). Higher night catch rates are attributed to increased activity by mobile fishes moving from mangrove to adjacent habitats to forage, especially immediately post-sunset. Although day–night diets and forage resources have yet to be compared in mangrove systems, previously unrecognized trophic relationships involving variation in diel activity among important fishery species (Centropomidae, polynemidae, Carangidae) and their prey may be key ecological processes in these tropical mangrove estuaries. A proposed hypothesis explaining diel variation in mangrove fish assemblages of tropical estuaries is presented through a conceptual model.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 01 May 2007
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