Dynamics of recruitment of larval and juvenile Cape stumpnose Rhabdosargus holubi (Teleostei: Sparidae) into the Swartkops and Sundays estuaries, South Africa
Recruitment of early life stages into estuaries is an integral part of the life cycle of many marine fish species. Although estuaries are naturally environmentally dynamic, they also are subject to anthropogenic disturbances, including land use and climate change, which may affect recruitment. Rhabdosargus holubi is an endemic marinespawning species predominantly associated with freshwater-rich estuaries which serve as nursery areas for postflexion larvae and juveniles. This study assessed the effect of environmental variables on the dynamics of recruitment of R. holubi larvae and juveniles into the Swartkops and Sundays estuaries, South Africa. Over a period of two years, fyke nets were set at each estuary mouth to monitor movement into the estuaries at each tidal phase over a 24 h cycle during two sampling sessions per season. Rhabdosargus holubi larvae recruited into estuaries primarily in summer and autumn and during the ebb tide at night, while juvenile movements showed no pattern. Salinity, turbidity and temperature were significantly important factors affecting R. holubi recruitment, with pH having no significant effect. Turbidity and salinity are affected by rainfall and freshwater abstraction which may thus influence recruitment. Rhabdosargus holubi is dependent on estuaries, so a combination of future changes in turbidity, salinity and temperature due to predicted climate change may place populations at risk.
Keywords: fish recruitment, fyke nets, movement patterns, physico-chemical variables