Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

The ichthyofaunal composition of the Elbe Estuary: an analysis in space and time

Thiel, R. and Potter, I.C. (2001) The ichthyofaunal composition of the Elbe Estuary: an analysis in space and time. Marine Biology, 138 (3). pp. 603-616.

Link to Published Version:
*Subscription may be required


A stow net (90 m2 opening) was used, at regular intervals between July 1989 and June 1993, to collect fish over ca. 4 h on both the flood and ebb tides at five sites distributed at regularly spaced distances throughout the Elbe Estuary. Overall, 53.4% of the species were marine, and some of these were abundant, e.g. Clupea harengus, Pleuronectes flesus, Pomatoschistus minutus, Merlangius merlangus and Sprattus sprattus. However, in terms of number of individuals, such species contributed only 9.1%, compared with 90.0% by anadromous species, which was predominantly due to exceptionally high catches of Osmerus eperlanus. The ichthyofaunal compositions on the flood and ebb tides were similar, even downstream where salinities change markedly during each tidal cycle. Although this is probably due in part to groups offish being swept first upstream on the flood tide and then back downstream on the ebb tide, several species clearly tended to occupy particular regions of the estuary. Each year the species composition changed sequentially from the most downstream site (max. salinity = ca. 31.4%‰) to the most upstream site (max. salinity = ca. 1.5%‰), mainly as a result of a sequential decline in the number and abundance of marine species and a progressive increase in the contributions of both anadromous and freshwater species. However, the marine species diagnostic of differences in the compositions among regions varied between years. Thus, for example, the diagnostic species for the downstream sites were C. harengus and M. merlangus in 1990/1991 and S. sprattus in 1992/1993, reflecting differences in the recruitment strengths of these marine species in the two years. The ichthyofaunal composition exhibited pronounced annual cyclical changes in each region and thus occurred irrespective of whether or not the salinity in a region underwent pronounced changes during the year. This cyclicity was attributable to intra-annual variations in the times of recruitment of certain marine species, particularly in the downstream region, and to seasonal migrations of diadromous species into each region, as well as to the movements of freshwater species into the upstream region in winter and early spring.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Publisher: Springer Verlag
Item Control Page Item Control Page