Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 101, Issue 7, pp 1137–1148 | Cite as

Habitat partitioning in juvenile fishes associated with three vegetation types in selected warm temperate estuaries, South Africa

  • L. Nel
  • N. A. StrydomEmail author
  • J. B. Adams


Three common vegetation types were studied to assess habitat partitioning in juvenile fishes in select warm temperate estuaries of South Africa. Vegetated habitat types are known as productive and important areas for predator avoidance and feeding and are often preferred by juvenile fishes. Habitat partitioning is not well understood, with previous studies mostly focusing on seagrass (Zostera capensis). This study aimed to assess three common vegetated fish nursery areas in estuaries to aid conservation planning. Fishes were collected by means of double-winged, six-hooped fyke nets, 1 mm mesh size secured in placed on the nocturnal flood tide at each inundated vegetation type (Phragmites australis, Zostera capensis, Spartina maritima) and at an adjacent unvegetated site for three consecutive months in 2014 and 2015 during the summer recruitment period for juvenile fishes. Higher catches were frequently recorded in vegetated areas for solely estuarine and marine estuarine dependent species. In general, the previously unstudied reed, P. australis showed the highest species richness and abundance of juvenile fishes overall, followed by, Z. capensis and the intertidal salt marsh species, S. maritima. Results from this study supports international trends on the value of vegetated areas as refugia for young fishes in estuaries.


Ichthyofauna Nursery grounds Macrophytes Species abundance Recruitment 



Gratitude is expressed to the National Research Foundation for financial support. Further gratitude is expressed to all those that assisted with the fieldwork and collection of data.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

This study is compliant with ethical standards.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ZoologyNelson Mandela University, Summerstrand Campus SouthPort ElizabethSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of BotanyNelson Mandela UniversityPort ElizabethSouth Africa

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