Indexed on: 08 Apr '11Published on: 08 Apr '11Published in: Environmental Pollution
Changes to larval fish assemblages may have far reaching ecological impacts. Correlations between habitat modification, contamination and marine larval fish communities have rarely been assessed in situ. We investigated links between the large-scale distribution of stressors and larval fish assemblages in estuarine environments. Larval fish communities were sampled using a benthic sled within the inner and outer zones of three heavily modified and three relatively unmodified estuaries. Larval abundances were significantly greater in modified estuaries, and there were trends towards greater diversity in these systems. Differences in larval community composition were strongly related to sediment metal levels and reduced seagrass cover. The differences observed were driven by two abundant species, Paedogobius kimurai and Ambassis jacksoniensis, which occurred in large numbers almost exclusively in highly contaminated and pristine locations respectively. These findings suggest that contamination and habitat alteration manifest in substantial differences in the composition of estuarine larval fish assemblages.