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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 485:181-197 (2013)  -  DOI:

Local and regional ecological drivers of fish assemblages in Brazilian estuaries

Ciro C. Vilar1,*, Jean-Christophe Joyeux2, Tommaso Giarrizzo3, Henry L. Spach1, João P. Vieira4, Teodoro Vaske-Junior5,6 

1Laboratório de Ecologia de Peixes, Centro de Estudos do Mar, Universidade Federal do Paraná, Pontal do Sul, Pontal do Paraná, Paraná 83255-976, Brazil
2Laboratório de Ictiologia, Departamento de Oceanografia e Ecologia, Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, Goiabeiras, Vitória, Espírito Santo 29075-910, Brazil
3Laboratório de Biologia Pesqueira e Manejo de Recursos Aquáticos, Universidade Federal do Pará, Terra Firme, Belém, Pará 66040-170, Brazil
4Laboratório de Ictiologia, Departamento de Oceanografia, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande, Rio Grande, Rio Grande do Sul 96201-900, Brazil
5Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco, Dois Irmão, Recife, Pernambuco 52171-900, Brazil
6Present address: Laboratório de Elasmobrânquios, Universidade Estadual Paulista Júlio de Mesquita Filho, Parque Bitaru, São Vicente, São Paulo 11330-900, Brazil

ABSTRACT: Spatial patterns in assemblage structures are generated by ecological processes that occur on multiple scales. Identifying these processes is important for the prediction of impact, for restoration and for conservation of biodiversity. This study used a hierarchical sampling design to quantify variations in assemblage structures of Brazilian estuarine fish across 2 spatial scales and to reveal the ecological processes underlying the patterns observed. Eight areas separated by 0.7 to 25 km (local scale) were sampled in 5 estuaries separated by 970 to 6000 km (regional scale) along the coast, encompassing both tropical and subtropical regions. The assemblage structure varied significantly in terms of relative biomass and presence/absence of species on both scales, but the regional variation was greater than the local variation for either dataset. However, the 5 estuaries sampled segregated into 2 major groups largely congruent with the Brazilian and Argentinian biogeographic provinces. Three environmental variables (mean temperature of the coldest month, mangrove area and mean annual precipitation) and distance between estuaries explained 44.8 and 16.3%, respectively, of the regional-scale variability in the species relative biomass. At the local scale, the importance of environmental predictors for the spatial structure of the assemblages differed between estuarine systems. Overall, these results support the idea that on a regional scale, the composition of fish assemblages is simultaneously determined by environmental filters and species dispersal capacity, while on a local scale, the effect of environmental factors should vary depending on estuary-specific physical and hydrological characteristics.

KEY WORDS: Fish communities · Estuarine fish · Spatial patterns · Multi-scale · Atlantic Ocean · Brazil

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Cite this article as: Vilar CC, Joyeux JC, Giarrizzo T, Spach HL, Vieira JP, Vaske-Junior T (2013) Local and regional ecological drivers of fish assemblages in Brazilian estuaries. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 485:181-197.

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