MEPS 307:233-246 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps307233

Influence of different volumes and types of detached macrophytes on fish community structure in surf zones of sandy beaches

Karen R. Crawley1, Glenn A. Hyndes1,*, Suzanne G. Ayvazian2,3

1Centre for Ecosystem Management, School of Natural Sciences, Edith Cowan University, 100 Joondalup Drive, Joondalup, Western Australia 6027, Australia
2Western Australian Marine Research Laboratory, PO Box 20, North Beach, Western Australia 6020, Australia
3Present address: US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Health and Effects Laboratory, Atlantic Ecology Division, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Detached macrophytes (seagrass and macroalgae) are transported from more offshore areas and accumulate in substantial volumes in surf zones, where they are commonly called wrack. Fishes were sampled using seine nets in 4 volume categories of detached macrophytes (bare sand, low, medium and high volumes) in the surf zone at 2 sandy beaches in southwestern Australia to determine how increasing volumes of surf-zone wrack influences fish community and size composition. Species composition and densities of fish, which were dominated by juveniles, differed between areas where wrack was present or absent, and also among volumes of wrack in the surf zone. Total fish abundance and biomass increased as the volume of wrack increased. Cnidoglanis macrocephalus and Pelsartia humeralis were the dominant species and were most abundant in medium and high wrack volumes. Fish gut contents were analysed for C. macrocephalus and P. humeralis, and verified that Allorchestes compressa is a major prey item for juveniles of these species. A series of habitat preference trials conducted in outdoor aquaria tested whether juvenile C. macrocephalus and P. humeralis showed a preference for different types of detached macrophytes as a habitat, i.e. seagrass, brown algae, or a mixture of both macrophyte types. Non-parametric goodness-of-fit binomial tests for differences in the number of fish between each habitat type showed no clear pattern in habitat preference for either species of fish. Field and laboratory results suggest that the amount, rather than type, of detached macrophytes is more important in providing a habitat for juvenile C. macrocephalus and P. humeralis.


KEY WORDS: Detached macrophytes · Fish communities · Surf zone · Sandy beaches · Habitat structure · Wrack


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