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Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 94, Issue 4, pp 601–614 | Cite as

Ecomorphological analysis as a complementary tool to detect changes in fish communities following major perturbations in two South African estuarine systems

  • Antoni Lombarte
  • Ana Gordoa
  • Alan K. Whitfield
  • Nicola C. James
  • Víctor M. Tuset
Article

Abstract

Ecomorphological changes as a result of natural perturbations in estuarine fish communities were investigated in two South African estuaries (Swartvlei and East Kleinemonde), both before and after the loss of aquatic macrophyte beds in these systems. The fish communities were analysed using an ecomorphological diversity index (EMI) and the results compared to a traditional index, the Shannon-Wiener diversity index. The EMI revealed that the major changes in fish community composition recorded in both estuaries were associated with quantitative variations at the species level. Both estuaries essentially lost their macrophyte beds and ended up with the same type of bottom habitat (bare sediment). In both cases the fish morphological variability decreased immediately after aquatic macrophyte loss and then increased to end above the initial value. The ecomorphological analysis appeared to be sensitive to major ecological disturbances that occurred during the study period and this was confirmed by the morphospace configuration. The results indicate that the ecomorphology of the fish community responds to habitat changes and that this change corresponds to alterations in the representation of the different feeding types. These findings therefore contribute to the measurement of morphological changes in estuarine fish assemblages as a result of habitat changes within the ecosystem and we propose that ecomorphological analyses add another dimension to the information provided by existing diversity indices in studying changing fish communities.

Keywords

Ecomorpholgy Index of diversity South African estuarine systems Fish communities 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work has been supported by the MEC CGL2004-0384-E project and National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antoni Lombarte
    • 1
  • Ana Gordoa
    • 2
  • Alan K. Whitfield
    • 3
  • Nicola C. James
    • 3
  • Víctor M. Tuset
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut de Ciències del Mar-CSICBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Centre d’Estudis Avançats-CSICBlanesSpain
  3. 3.South African Institute for Aquatic BiodiversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

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