MEPS 312:223-234 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps312223

Fish assemblages in habitats dominated by Caulerpa taxifolia and native seagrasses in south-eastern Australia

P. H. York1,*, D. J. Booth1, T. M. Glasby2, B. C. Pease2

1Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney, PO Box 123, Broadway 2007, Australia
2New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Port Stephens Fisheries Centre, Private Bag 1, Nelson Bay 2315, Australia

ABSTRACT: Seagrass beds in estuaries are important habitats and nursery grounds for a great variety of fishes, including many economically important species. The introduction of the invasive green alga Caulerpa taxifolia could potentially threaten the seagrasses of south-eastern Australia. This study examined the implications of the spread of C. taxifolia on ichthyofauna in 2 estuaries in central New South Wales. Fish assemblages were compared among adjacent habitats of C. taxifolia and 2 seagrass species (Posidonia australis and Zostera capricorni). Fish were sampled using a small beam trawl to test for differences among habitats in (1) the species composition of the fish assemblages, (2)total abundance and species richness of fishes, and (3) abundances of major fish families. Fish assemblages separated into 3 significantly distinct groupings based on habitat. Total abundances of fishes were similar among habitats; however, species richness was lower in C. taxifolia. The fish assemblages in C. taxifolia were largely characterised by high abundances of gobiid fishes, similar to those in Z. capricorni, and few or no syngnathid and monacanthid species when compared to seagrass fish assemblages. This suggests that if C. taxifolia competitively replaces native seagrass beds in the estuaries of New South Wales, the resulting change in habitat may also cause a change in fish assemblages. This could reduce the abundances of some protected and economically important fish species but may also increase abundances of other opportunistic fishes.


KEY WORDS: Caulerpa taxifolia · Fish assemblages · Seagrass · South-eastern Australia


Full text in pdf format