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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 446:259-273 (2012)  -  DOI:

Fish assemblages of shallow intertidal habitats of the Ria Formosa lagoon (South Portugal): influence of habitat and season

Joaquim Ribeiro*, Gonçalo M. Carvalho, Jorge M. S. Gonçalves, Karim Erzini

Centro de Ciências do Mar (CCMAR), Faculdade de Ciências do Mar e do Ambiente, Universidade do Algarve, Campus de Gambelas, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal

ABSTRACT: Fish assemblages in seagrass and unvegetated habitats located in shallow intertidal creeks within the saltmarsh area of the Ria Formosa coastal lagoon were sampled with a Riley push net at 3 sites on a monthly basis over a 1 yr period. The objective was to test if both habitats support similar fish assemblages in terms of abundance, diversity, assemblage structure, and size distribution, and to investigate how site and season affect the assemblages. Fish assemblages associated with these habitats were significantly different in terms of diversity, abundance, and assemblage structure. Seagrass supported a larger number of species and greater diversity, while unvegetated habitat supported greater fish numbers but only of a few species. The habitats were dominated by different groups of resident species that were responsible for major differences in fish assemblage structure between habitats. Pomatoschistus microps and young-of-the-year (YOY) Atherina presbyter dominated the unvegetated habitat, while seagrass was dominated by a diverse group of species, in particular syngnathids and small labrids, revealing different habitat preferences. Site and season were determinant factors conditioning the role of habitat in structuring fish assemblages. Distance between habitats, site elevation, and the amount of marsh drained affected fish assemblages in both habitats. Seasonal fluctuations in the presence and abundance of YOY from marine migrant and resident species were responsible for comparable changes in fish assemblage structure in both habitats. Both habitats provide a distinctive nursery area for different species, while common species reveal ontogenic distributional changes between habitats, where smaller fish appear first in unvegetated creeks.

KEY WORDS: Fish fauna · Coastal lagoon · Saltmarsh · Intertidal habitats · Seasonal variations · Habitat association · Ria Formosa · South Portugal

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Cite this article as: Ribeiro J, Carvalho GM, Gonçalves JMS, Erzini K (2012) Fish assemblages of shallow intertidal habitats of the Ria Formosa lagoon (South Portugal): influence of habitat and season. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 446:259-273.

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