The ichthyofauna in a small temporarily open/closed Eastern Cape estuary, South Africa
Abstract (Summary)The ichthyofaunal community structure, population dynamics and movement patterns in the small temporarily open/closed (TOCE) Grant’s Valley estuary, situated along the Eastern Cape coastline, were investigated over the period May 2004 to April 2005. Community structure in the littoral zone was assessed, while growth of selected ichthyofaunal species was investigated using the MULTIFAN model. Population size was assessed using mark recapture models and movement within the estuary using the Hilborn (1990) model. Total ichthyofaunal densities and biomass within the littoral zone ranged between 0.31 to 21.45 fish m[superscript -2] and 0.20 to 4.67 g wwt m[superscript -2], with the highest values typically recorded during the summer. Results of the study indicated that the ichthyofaunal community structure within the estuary was closely linked to the mouth phase and the establishment of a link to the marine environment via overtopping events. In the absence of any link to the sea, the ichthyofaunal community was numerically dominated by estuarine resident species, mainly Gilchristella aestuaria and to a lesser extent, by the river goby, Glossogobius callidus which collectively comprised ca. 88% of all fish sampled. The establishment of the link to the marine environment contributed to an increased contribution of marine breeding species (e.g. Rhabdosargus holubi, Myxus capensis and Atherina breviceps) to the total ichthyofaunal abundances. In contrast, total ichthyofaunal biomass was almost always dominated by marine breeding species by virtue of their larger sizes. Results of hierarchical cluster analyses did not identify any spatial patterns in the ichthyofaunal community within the littoral zone. Results of MULTIFAN analysis indicated estuarine resident fish species bred over an extended period with peaks occurring in the summer months. Conversely, marine breeding fish were shown to recruit into the estuary following overtopping and breaching events. Results of the mark-recapture experiment indicated a population of ca. 12 000 (11 219 – 13 311) individuals greater than 50mm SL. Marine-breeding species (R. holubi, Monodactylus falciformis, and two mullet species) numerically dominated the ichthyofauna, possibly as a result of their effective use of overtopping events. The two mullet species, M. capensis and Liza richardsonii, and the Cape stumpnose, R. holubi moved extensively throughout the estuary, while the remaining species exhibited restricted movement patterns possibly due to the preference for refuge and foraging areas associated with reed beds. The observed movement patterns of individual fish species appeared to be associated with both foraging behaviour and habitat selection.
School Location:South Africa
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:01/01/2006