MEPS 228:165-177 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/meps228165

Distribution of juvenile penaeid prawns in mangrove forests in a tropical Australian estuary, with particular reference to Penaeus merguiensis

D. J. Vance*, M. D. E. Haywood, D. S. Heales, R. A. Kenyon, N. R. Loneragan, R. C. Pendrey

CSIRO Marine Research, Cleveland Marine Laboratories, PO Box 120, Cleveland, Queensland, 4163, Australia

ABSTRACT: Several species of prawns, including juveniles of Penaeus merguiensis, will move into mangrove forests when the forests are inundated by flood tides. However, we do not know how extensively the prawns use the forests or whether some parts of the forests are more valuable to the prawns than others. We assessed the distribution of juvenile prawns in 3 different mangrove communities in intertidal forests adjacent to a small creek and a river in northern Australia between December 1993 and February 1995. The 3 mangrove communities were dominated, respectively, by the structurally complex Rhizophora stylosa, and the more open Ceriops tagal and Avicennia marina. We used stake nets (100 m long, 2 mm mesh) to sample discrete areas of the mangrove forests, and fyke nets (2 mm mesh) to sample prawns moving through the forests. The area of each stake net site ranged from 430 to 650 m2 and the distance of the midpoint of each site inland from the creek or river mangrove fringe ranged from 13 to 225 m. A large size range of juvenile P. merguiensis (2 to 21 mm carapace length, CL) was caught in the mangroves and prawns were caught as far as 200 m into the forests. In the creek forest, there was no clear relationship between mangrove community type and prawn catches. The highest densities of P. merguiensis were recorded in the creek and were 28.1 and 27.6 prawns 100m-2 in Rhizophora sp. and Ceriops sp. forest respectively. The highest mean catches were taken 59 m from the creek mangrove fringe. In contrast to the creek, in the river mangrove forest, there was a clear pattern of catches: the number of P. merguiensis caught decreased with distance into the mangroves and at shallower water depths. We have hypothesised that the distribution of juvenile P. merguiensis inside the mangroves depends largely on the local topography and pattern of water currents within each forest. Large numbers of unidentified Metapenaeus spp. and smaller numbers of M. ensis and P. monodon were also recorded from the samples inside the mangrove forests.

KEY WORDS: Penaeid · Juvenile · Mangroves · Stake net · Distribution · Intertidal

Full text in pdf format