Fish assemblages as indicators of estuary ecosystem health
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Understanding and managing increasing threat from diverse anthropogenic pressures on estuaries requires impact assessment and monitoring indices that provide accurate quantification of change and are readily communicable. Although indices based on nekton assemblage structure have obvious appeal to managers, the imperative to produce the most accurate measures possible has seen a move away from simple composite measures (such as diversity indices) towards complex multivariate approaches. However, complex methods often provide a poor basis for reporting because they can be difficult to report in terms that are meaningful to the end user. Effective indices should be simple to construct and communicate, relate directly to definable biological attributes, fall within predictable ranges for unimpacted systems and show demonstrable responses to known impacts. We use published nekton data for 30 natural and two artificial estuaries to develop a set of nekton assemblage-based summary measures that fit these criteria. We evaluated a suite of simple parallel measures based on both catch per unit effort (CPUE) and probability of encounter (PoE). Parallel measures provide complementary information thus a more robust assessments of change. Three measures fell within consistent bounds as long as comparisons were confined to the same time of year to remove the influence of seasonal variability, and were efficient at differentiating degraded from unimpacted estuaries. Because the successful approaches rely on PoE rather than CPUE they have considerable tactical advantages in that they are less destructive, allow for the collection of many more samples per unit time, and treat schooling and non-schooling species equivalently.
Wetland Ecology and Management
© 2012 Springer Netherlands. This is an electronic version of an article published in Wetlands Ecology and Management, Vol. 20(6), pp. 477-490, 2012. Wetlands Ecology and Management is available online at: http://link.springer.com/ with the open URL of your article.
Conservation and Biodiversity