Catalog Home Page

Influence of exceptionally high salinities, marked variations in freshwater discharge and opening of estuary mouth on the characteristics of the ichthyofauna of a normally-closed estuary

Young, G.C. and Potter, I.C. (2002) Influence of exceptionally high salinities, marked variations in freshwater discharge and opening of estuary mouth on the characteristics of the ichthyofauna of a normally-closed estuary. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 55 (2). pp. 223-246.

Link to Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/ecss.2001.0899
*Subscription may be required

Abstract

This study aimed to determine how the characteristics of the ichthyofauna of the normally-closed Wellstead Estuary on the south coast of Western Australia are influenced by the exceptionally high salinities attained during protracted periods of landlocking and, at other times, by atypically heavy freshwater discharge and consequently the opening of the estuary mouth. After 47 months of continuous closure, this estuary became open to the sea for 30 days in September/October 1997 and then closed again for a further six months. Nearshore, shallow and offshore, deeper waters of the lower, middle and upper regions of this estuary were sampled using seine and gill nets, respectively, in alternate months between July 1996 and May 1998. Mean monthly salinities in each region were >40 on all sampling occasions, except immediately preceding and following the opening of the estuary mouth and, in the lower estuary, they rose to a maximum of 112 in March 1997, before declining to a minimum of 14 in September 1997. The fish fauna of Wellstead Estuary was highly depauperate (20 species), presumably due mainly to the very limited opportunities for the immigration of marine species. However, appreciable numbers of two marine species (Mugil cephalus and Aldrichetta forsteri) entered from the sea when the estuary was open in the period prior to October 1993 and were able to survive in the highly variable salinities found in this estuary when it was landlocked for the following 47 months. There was strong evidence that, as salinities rose to very high levels in 1997, all of the Leptatherina wallacei and Amoya bifrenatus found in the estuary died and some other species moved from the lower to upper reaches of the estuary where salinities did not rise to such high levels. The atherinid Atherinosoma elongata was the only species caught in March 1997 at the site in the lower estuary where the salinity reached 122. Subsequently, the number of species and overall density of fish in the lower estuary, and particularly in nearshore, shallow waters, increased markedly, presumably due to the downstream flushing effects of heavy freshwater discharge and a decline in salinity. When the bar was breached, small numbers of certain marine species, e.g. Sardinops neopilchardus, Sillaginodes punctata, Arripis georgiana, Arripis truttaceus and Pomatomus saltatrix, entered from the sea, while some individuals of M. cephalus and A. forsteri emigrated from the estuary.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research
School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Publisher: Academic Press
Copyright: © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd.
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/16743
Item Control Page Item Control Page