Marine Biology

, Volume 112, Issue 1, pp 139–146 | Cite as

Effects of the shoot density of seagrass on fish and decapods: are correlation evident over larger spatial scales?

  • D. G. Worthington
  • D. J. Ferrell
  • S. E. McNeill
  • J. D. Bell


Two conflicting models for the organisation of assemblages of fish and decapods associated with seagrass over large spatial scales, make contradictory predictions about the relationship between density of seagrass shoots and abundance, or diversity, of animals. We tested the predictions of both models by sampling small lish and decapods associated with two species of seagrass (Zostera capricorni Aschers and Posidonia australis Hook) at up to 16 sites within several estuaries in New South Wales, Australia, for 1.5 yr (December 1988 to March 1990). Variation in density of Z. capricorni shoots explained very little of the variation in abundance of animals. However, abundance of one species, the grass shirmp Macrobrachium intermedium, was more closely related to the density of shoots during non-recruitment seasons, suggesting that predation or emigration of individuals after settlement was greater in sparse beds. The effect of variation in density of P. australis shoots was confounded with consistent distribution patterns of most fish and decapod species. As a result, data from P. australis did not provide good tests of the hypotheses. We conclude that density of seagrass shoots explained very little of the large-scale variation in abundance of associated fish and decapods. The data do, however, support the inodel which predicts that the abundance of animals among separate seagrass beds will follow the supply of new individuals to them.


Distribution Pattern Spatial Scale Good Test Large Spatial Scale Shoot Density 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature cited

  1. Adams, S. M. (1976). The ecology of eelgrass, Zostera marina (L.), fish communities. I. Structural analysis. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol. 22: 269–291Google Scholar
  2. Andrew, N. L., Underwood, A. J. (1989). Patterns of abundance of the sea urchin Centrostephanus rodgersii (Agassiz) on the central coast of New South Wales, Australia. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol. 131: 61–80Google Scholar
  3. Bell, J. D., Steffe, A. S., Westoby, M. (1988). Location of seagrass beds in estuaries: effects on associated fish and decapods. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol. 122: 127–146Google Scholar
  4. Bell, J. D., Westoby, M. (1986a). Importance of local changes in leaf height and density to fish and decapods associated with seagrasses. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol. 104: 249–274Google Scholar
  5. Bell, J. D., Westoby, M. (1986b). Abundance of macrofauna in dense seagrass is due to habitat preference, not predation. Oecologia 68: 205–209Google Scholar
  6. Bell, J. D., Westoby, M. (1986c). Variation in seagrass height and density over a wide spatial scale: effects on fish and decapods. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol. 104: 275–295Google Scholar
  7. Bell, J. D., Westoby, M., Steffe, A. S. (1987). Fish larvae settling in seagrass: do they discriminate between beds of different leaf density? J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol. 111: 133–144Google Scholar
  8. Butler, A. J. (1986). Recruitment of sessile invertebrates at five sites in Gulf St. Vincent, South Australia. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol. 97: 13–36Google Scholar
  9. Choat, J. H., Ayling, A. M. (1987). The relationship between habitat structure and fish faunas on New Zealand reefs. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol. 110: 257–284Google Scholar
  10. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioural sciences. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, New JerseyGoogle Scholar
  11. Fairweather, P. G. (1988). Predation creates haloes of bare space among prey on rocky seashores in New South Wales. Aust. J. Ecol. 13: 401–409Google Scholar
  12. Ferrell, D. J., Bell, J. D. (1991). Differences among assemblages of fish associated with Zostera capricorni and bare sand over a large spatial scale. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 72: 15–24Google Scholar
  13. Gore, R. H., Gallaher, E. E., Scotto, L. E., Wilson, K. A. (1981). Studies on decapod crustacea from the Indian River region of Florida. XI. Community composition, structure, biomass and species-areal relationships of seagrass and drift algae-associated macrocrustaceans. Estuar., cstl Shelf Sci. 12: 485–508Google Scholar
  14. Gotceitas, V., Colgan, P. (1989). Predator foraging success and habitat complexity: quantitative test of the threshold hypothesis. Oecologia 80: 158–166Google Scholar
  15. Gray, C. A. (1991). Temporal variability in the demography of the palaemonid prawn Marcrobrachium intermedium in two seagrasses. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 75: 227–238Google Scholar
  16. Heck, K. L. Jr., Orth, R. J. (1980). Seagrass habitats: the roles of habitat complexity, competition and predation in structuring associated fish and motile macroinvertebrate assemblages. In: Kennedy, V. S. (ed.) Estuarine perspectives. Academic Press, New York, p. 449–464Google Scholar
  17. Heck, K. L., Wetstone, G. S. (1977). Habitat complexity and invertebrate species richness and abundance in tropical seagrass meadows. J. Biogeogr. 4: 135–142Google Scholar
  18. Jones, G. P. (1984). Population ecology of the temperate reef fish Pseudolabrus celidotus Bloch and Schneider (Pisces: Labridae). I. Factors influencing recruitment. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol. 75: 257–276Google Scholar
  19. Jones, G. P. (1990). The importance of recruitment to the dynamics of a coral reef fish population. Ecology 71: 1691–1698Google Scholar
  20. Leber, K. M. (1985). The influence of predatory decapods, refuge, and microhabitat selection on seagrass communities. Ecology 66: 1951–1964Google Scholar
  21. Luckhurst, B. E., Luckhurst, K. (1978). Analysis of the influence of substrate variables on coral reef fish communities. Mar. Biol. 49: 317–323Google Scholar
  22. McNeill, S. E., Bell, J. D. (1991). Optimising the design and use of a beam trawl for sampling macro-fauna of Posidonia seagrass. (in preparation)Google Scholar
  23. Nelson, W. G. (1979). Experimental studies of selective predation on amphipods: consequences for amphipod distribution and abundance. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol. 38: 225–245Google Scholar
  24. Nelson, W. G., Bonsdorff, E. (1990). Fish predation and habitat complexity: are complexity thresholds real? J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol. 141: 183–194Google Scholar
  25. Orth, R. J., Heck, K. L. Jr. (1980). Structural components of eelgrass (Zostera marina) meadows in the lower Chesapeake Bayfishes. Estuaries 3: 278–288Google Scholar
  26. Orth, R. J., Heck, K. L. Jr., van Montfrans, J. V. (1984). Faunal communities in seagrass beds: a review of the influence of plant structure and prey characteristics on predator-prey relationships. Estuaries 7: 339–350Google Scholar
  27. Sale, P. F., Doherty, P. J., Eckert, G. J., Douglas, W. A., Ferrell, D. J. (1984). Large scale spatial and temporal variation in recruitment to fish populations on coral reefs. Oecologia 64: 191–198Google Scholar
  28. Sogard, S. M. (1989). Colonization of artificial seagrass by fishes and decapod crustaceans: importance of proximity to natural eelgrass. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol. 133: 15–37Google Scholar
  29. Underwood, A. J. (1981). Techniques of analysis of variance in experimental marine biology and ecology. Oceanogr. mar. Biol. A. Rev. 19: 513–605Google Scholar
  30. Underwood, A. J., Barrett, G. (1990). Experiments on the influence of oysters on the distribution, abundance and sizes of the gastropod Bembicium auratum in a mangrove swamp in New South Wales, Australia. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol. 137: 25–45Google Scholar
  31. Underwood, A. J., Fairweather, P. G. (1989). Supply-side ecology and benthic marine assemblages. Trends Ecol. Evol. 4: 16–20Google Scholar
  32. Watanabe, J. M. (1984). The influence of recruitment, competition, and benthic predation on spatial distributions of three species of kelp forest gastropods (Trochidae: Tegula). Ecology 65: 920–936Google Scholar
  33. Williams, A. H., Coen, L. D., Stoelting, M. S. (1990). Seasonal abundance, distribution, and habitat selection of juvenile Callinectes sapidus (Rathbun) in the northern Gulf of Mexico. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol. 137: 165–183Google Scholar
  34. Worthington, D. G., Westoby, M., Bell, J. D. (1991). Fish larvae settling in seagrass: effects of leaf density and an epiphytic alga. Aust. J. Ecol. 16: 289–293Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. G. Worthington
    • 1
  • D. J. Ferrell
    • 1
  • S. E. McNeill
    • 1
  • J. D. Bell
    • 1
  1. 1.Fisheries Research InstituteNew South Wales Office of FisheriesCronullaAustalia

Personalised recommendations