Indexed on: 01 Jun '93Published on: 01 Jun '93Published in: Aquatic Ecology
The physical and chemical processes operating in the River Tamar Estuary (south-west England) have been comprehensively described and reported in the literature. There are well-established gradients of salinity, suspended sediment and oxygen which vary both on short-term (tidal) and long-term (seasonal) cycles. Freshwater runoff, the main factor determining salinity distribution, is also the cause of the high variability in suspended sediment concentrations. The biological processes are less well studied and information on the link between the benthic and pelagic systems is particularly lacking. Mysids, through their role as detritivores and as a major component in the diet of some fish, provide this link. Of the four species of mysid distributed longitudinally in the Tamar Estuary, the most abundant isMesopodopsis slabberi which occurs between 5 and 25 km from the estuary head. Observations over an annual cycle have shown marked seasonal changes in both abundance and distribution in the estuary. During winter and spring, densities remained generally low (<50 m−3) but, as water temperatures increased, the density increased and reachedca 1200 individuals m−3 in July. There was a shift in the longitudinal distribution ofM. slabberi in response to changes in the position of the salinity gradient. Adults comprised the majority of the population in salinities less than 10‰ whereas juveniles and immature animals were distributed over a wider area than the adults and occurred in water of higher salinity than the main adult distribution.M. slabberi appears to utilise the two-layered estuarine circulation to maintain its position in the estuary.