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RESEARCH ARTICLE

Trophic importance of a temperate intertidal wetland to resident and itinerant taxa: evidence from multiple stable isotope analyses

Debashish Mazumder A , Neil Saintilan B , Robert J. Williams C and Ron Szymczak A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Locked Bag 2001, Kirrawee DC, NSW 2232, Australia.

B New South Wales Department of Environment Climate Change and Water, Rivers and Wetlands Unit, PO Box A 290, Sydney, NSW 1232, Australia.

C New South Wales Department of Industry and Investment, Systems Research Branch, Aquatic Ecosystems Research Unit, PO Box 21, Cronulla, NSW 2230, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: debashish.mazumder@ansto.gov.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 62(1) 11-19 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF10076
Submitted: 19 March 2010  Accepted: 2 October 2010   Published: 18 January 2011

Abstract

Juveniles of commercially important fish species congregate in shallow vegetated estuarine habitats during high tides. Considerable debate has centred on whether the significance of these habitats lies in their provision of greater feeding opportunities, or shelter from predation afforded by greater structural complexity. We tested the hypothesis that an inundated mangrove and saltmarsh wetland provided feeding opportunities for itinerant species, and that the contribution of wetland primary producers and grazing herbivores could be identified in their diet, using stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen. Potential sources of dietary carbon included mangrove, saltmarsh, seagrass, seagrass epiphytic material and benthic organic material. Saltmarsh plants (mostly Sporobolus virginicus and Juncus kraussii) and fine benthic organic material appeared to be the primary sources of dietary carbon for the resident grazing herbivores in the wetlands, based on IsoSource mixing models. During high tide, species of itinerant fish enter the mangrove and, when inundated, the saltmarsh, and feed primarily on crab larvae and copepods. Fine benthic organic matter, seagrass epiphyte, and C3 and C4 plant materials also supplement the diet of some fish. The crab larvae therefore provide a significant source of nutrition and an important link between the intertidal wetlands and the adjacent estuarine ecosystem. The carnivorous fish Acanthopagrus australis, at the highest trophic level, hunted within or adjacent to the mangrove–saltmarsh wetland and fed on several lower-order consumers within the wetland. The present study highlights the significance of mangrove and saltmarsh wetlands as a feeding habitat for resident grazers and itinerant nekton.

Keywords: mangrove, nekton, saltmarsh, seagrass, stable isotopes, trophic connectivity.


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