Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Agriculture, Forestry, Horticulture, Fishery, Domestic Science, Nutrition
Fish species densities from 1025 hauls obtained with beam trawl and stow net catches from the southern Tagus and northern Elbe estuaries were analysed for two different periods of time between 1978 and 1997. The data were related with environmental factors to compare species composition and densities, contributions of different ecological guilds, structuring environmental key factors, intra-annual cyclicity and interperiodical stability of ichthyofaunas in large European estuaries at different latitudes. Although the total number of species in both the Tagus and Elbe estuaries (Tagus: 57 species, Elbe: 58 species) was very similar, significant differences were estimated in species compositions, species densities and number of species, and individuals of the different ecological guilds between both estuaries. A total of 15 species occurred in both estuaries but only two of these species, the catadromous Anguilla anguilla and the marine estuarine opportunist Pleuronectes flesus, contributed substantially to the total abundance. Marine species together contributed more than 5% of the total number of species in the Tagus and Elbe estuaries, whereas their contribution in number of individuals amounted to 22% in the Tagus and only 9% in the Elbe. In terms of number of individuals, the ichthyofauna of the Tagus estuary was dominated by estuarine species (especially Pomatoschistus spp.) contributing 68% of the total abundance. In contrast, the fish fauna of the Elbe estuary was dominated by high numbers of anadromous species (88%) individuals, especially Osmerus eperlanus. Canonical corresponding analyses (CCA) indicated that, besides intra-annual variables, salinity and mouth distance were two of the most important environmental factors structuring the fish communities in both estuaries. Moreover, water depth was found to be an important environmental factor in the Tagus estuary, whereas the water temperature substantially affected the ichthyofaunal composition in the Elbe estuary. In both estuaries, contributions by number of species and number of individuals of the different ecological guilds were not statistically different between the two periods considered, 1978–80 and 1995–97 for the Tagus, and 1981–86 and 1989–95 for the Elbe. Nevertheless, from 1981–86 until 1989–95 a remarkable increase of about 4.5 times in the densities of O. eperlanus was observed in the Elbe estuary, probably related to improved water quality, especially of oxygen conditions in the nurseries since 1990. This was also supported by the results of CCA, suggesting important influences of the years 1989 and 1990 on the Elbe estuary fish assemblage. Climate change as a result of global warming may be evident for the observed changes of the densities of P. flesus which decreased in the southern Tagus estuary and, in contrast, increased in the northern Elbe estuary during comparable periods of time. It is recommended to use the ecological guild classification scheme which was applied for the Tagus and Elbe estuaries for further studies of European estuarine fish assemblages.
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