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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2009

Fish assemblages in coastal lagoons in land-uplift succession: the relative importance of local and regional environmental gradients

Snickars, Martin; Sandstrom, Alfred; Lappalainen, Antti; Mattila, Johanna; Rosqvist, Kajsa; Urho, Lauri


The assemblages of young-of-the-year fish were studied in coastal lagoons in an archipelago with post-glacial land-uplift, which affects environmental gradients at local and regional scale, i.e. lagoon habitat isolation and archipelago position, respectively. The categorisation of 40 undisturbed lagoons into nine habitat types based on habitat isolation and archipelago position was supported by clear relationships with spring temperature and total fish abundance. Rutilus rutilus, breams (Abramis/Blicca sp.) and Perca fluviatilis were the most abundant and frequently occurring species. The fish assemblage differed among the nine habitat types. Rutilus rutilus, P. fluviatilis and breams were discriminating species in the majority of habitat types with low physical harshness, whereas Alburnus alburnus and Gasterosteus aculeatus increased their contributions in habitat types with high physical harshness. Rutilus rutilus and breams were thus common in lagoons with high habitat isolation situated in the inner archipelago. These lagoons were characterised by warm water and high vegetation coverage. Gasterosteus aculeatus was restricted to lagoons with low habitat isolation and exposure and low vegetation coverage, situated in the outer archipelago. Perca fluviatilis had the widest distribution of all species. The coverage of two macrophytes, Potamogeton perfoliatus and Zannichellia palustris, and salinity matched best the distance among habitat types. These habitat characteristics, as well as the fish abundances and assemblages differed most across the habitat types in the outer and mid archipelago zones and in the lowest habitat isolation. These patterns suggest that the structuring effect of habitat isolation increases along the archipelago gradient as differences between local and regional conditions increase. In the inner archipelago, overall low physical harshness induces homogeneous conditions and the habitat isolation is less important here than in the other zones. We suggest that this difference in the relative importance of the two gradients depending on the level of respective gradient ultimately forms these heterogeneous coastal habitats in a successional landscape. Rutilus rutilus and P. fluviatilis were responsible for large parts of the assemblage patterns. Although sympatric due to similar habitat requirements, differences in dispersal capability, competitive ability and predation vulnerability may add explanation to detected differences in distribution and abundance in these two species in an open system. Our results also stress the structuring role of vegetation in terms of total coverage and species composition, as these two aspects of macrophyte diversity may act as complementary habitat modifiers across gradients of physical harshness. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


species composition; macrophytes; archipelagoes; nursery areas; Baltic Sea

Published in

Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
2009, volume: 81, number: 2, pages: 247-256

Authors' information

Swedish Board of Fisheries
Mattila, Johanna
Åbo Akademi University

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

Publication Identifiers


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