A tale of two habitats: preliminary comparison of fish abundance and diversity between saltmarsh- and mangrove-dominated creeks in the Nahoon Estuary, South Africa
A preliminary assessment of abundance and richness of fishes utilising saltmarsh and mangrove habitats in the Nahoon Estuary, situated on the eastern coast of South Africa, was undertaken during July 2017. The structural composition and complexity of the two habitats were assessed and underwater cameras were used to provide preliminary insight into the use of the different habitats by fish taxa. The saltmarsh habitat had a higher fractal dimension and density of stems than the mangrove habitat. The species richness of fishes was slightly higher in the mangroves than in the saltmarsh, with nine and seven taxa recorded in the two habitats, respectively. The mean relative abundance of fishes was higher in the saltmarsh than in the mangroves and this was mainly due to the dominance of shoaling estuarine zooplanktivores in the saltmarsh. The mean relative abundance of estuaryassociated marine fish species was, however, higher in the mangroves, which may be indicative of greater nursery use of this habitat by marine fishes. Although this is the first study to simultaneously assess the role of both saltmarsh and mangroves as fish habitat in estuaries of temperate South Africa, the findings are preliminary, and further study on seasonal differences in species assemblages is recommended.
Keywords: fish assemblage, habitat complexity, habitat use, pneumatophores, Salicornia tegetaria, temperate estuary, underwater video