University of Tasmania

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Comparisons between the characteristics of ichthyofaunas in nearshore waters of five estuaries with varying degrees of connectivity with the ocean

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 07:04 authored by Hoeksema, SD, Chuwen, BM, Potter, IC
The characteristics of the fish faunas in nearshore, shallow (<1.2 m) waters of the basins of estuaries along the same coastline, but which were open to the ocean for varying periods, have been determined and compared. The fish faunas of the permanently-open Oyster Harbour, the seasonally-open Broke, Irwin and Wilson inlets and the normally-closed Wellstead Estuary on the south coast of Western Australia were sampled by seine net seasonally for 2 years. Irrespective of the frequency and duration that the estuary mouth was open, the ichthyofauna of each estuary was numerically dominated by three atherinid species and three gobiid species (92.9-99.7%), each of which completes its life cycle within these estuaries. The ichthyofaunal compositions of each estuary differed significantly, however, from that of each other estuary. These differences were largely attributable to the relative abundances of the above six species varying between estuaries, which, in turn, reflected differences in such factors as estuary mouth status, macrophyte cover and salinity. For example, Favonigobius lateralis and Leptatherina presbyteroides, which are also represented by marine populations, were most abundant in the permanentlyopen estuary (Oyster Harbour), which, in terms of substrate and salinity, most closely resembled the nearshore marine environment. In contrast, Leptatherina wallacei made its greatest contribution in the only estuary to exhibit a protracted period of greatly reduced salinities, which is consistent with its distribution in permanently-open estuaries on the lower west coast of Australia, while Atherinosoma elongata and Pseudogobius olorumwere particularly numerous in estuaries containing dense stands of the seagrass Ruppia megacarpa. Marine species made the greatest contribution to species richness in the permanently-open estuary and least in the normally-closed estuary. Species richness was greatest in summer and least in winter in each estuary, but differed markedly between years only in Wilson Inlet. Density of fishes was greatest in the most eutrophic estuary (Wellstead Estuary) and least in the most oligotrophic estuary (Broke Inlet) and only underwent marked seasonal variations in Wilson Inlet and Wellstead Estuary, in which densities fell to their minima in winter. Ichthyofaunal composition varied between years in the Broke and Wilson inlets and Wellstead Estuary, in which there was little or no connection with the ocean in one of those years. Species composition underwent progressive seasonal changes throughout the year in Wellstead Estuary, due to the abundance of certain species peaking at different times of the year.


Publication title

Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Elsevier Ltd

Place of publication

24-28 Oval Rd, London, England, Nw1 7Dx

Rights statement

The definitive version is available at

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Biodiversity in Antarctic and Southern Ocean environments