freshwater fish

A comparison of current and historical fish assemblages in a Caribbean island estuary: conservation value of historical data

Smith, K. L., Corujo Flores, I. and Pringle, C. M. (2008), A comparison of current and historical fish assemblages in a Caribbean island estuary: conservation value of historical data. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 18: 993–1004. doi: 10.1002/aqc.920

Abstract: 
1. Historical data are often one of the only resources available for documenting and assessing causes of environmental change, particularly in developing regions where funding for ecological studies is limited. In this paper, previously unpublished data from a 1977 year-long study of the fish community of the Espiritu Santo estuary are presented. This dataset is among the oldest and most extensive surveys of a Caribbean island estuarine fish community. 2. A comparison of these historical data with data collected in June and July 2004 using identical sampling methods allowed description of potential long-term changes in the fish community, identification of vulnerable species, and assessment of potential drivers of change. 3. Results strongly suggest a decline in species richness and abundance in the Espiritu Santo estuarine fish community, with greater declines in freshwater-tolerant than marine or euryhaline species. Declines in freshwater inflow to the estuary, due to large-scale upstream water abstractions for municipal use, have increased since the initial 1977 survey. 4. This is the first study to examine long-term change in the fish community of a tropical island estuary. Results indicate that additional research and conservation efforts are needed to understand mechanisms of change and to protect Caribbean island estuarine fish communities.
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