Scientia Marina, Vol 77, No 1 (2013)

Salinity as the main factor structuring small-bodied fish assemblages in hydrologically altered Mediterranean coastal lagoons

Sílvia Rodríguez-Climent
IRTA Aquatic Ecosystems , Spain

Nuno Caiola
IRTA Aquatic Ecosystems , Spain

Carles Ibáñez
IRTA Aquatic Ecosystems , Spain


In the Ebro Delta coastal lagoons, one of the main anthropogenic pressures is the artificial freshwater input. Each coastal lagoon has different water management schemes causing profound changes in its physicochemical characteristics. The main objective of this water management is to favour some bird species with interest either for conservation or hunting activities. The present study assesses the influence of hydrological alteration on the fish assemblages of three coastal lagoons in the Ebro Delta. The small-bodied fish fauna was mainly composed of five families: Gobiidae, Poecilidae, Cyprinodontidae, Atherinidae and Mugilidae. Salinity was found to be the main factor structuring fish community in the lagoons. The dominant species was the common goby (Pomatochistus microps) when the lagoons reached higher salinity values, whereas the invasive eastern mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) dominated during the period of higher freshwater inputs. The juveniles of the family Mugilidae showed low catch per unit effort, especially during the period of lower salinity. This same pattern was found for the endangered Spanish toothcarp (Aphanius iberus). Overall, introduced species were favoured by low salinity, which highlights the importance of changing the present water management by reducing the freshwater inputs in order to maintain suitable levels of salinity to favour native species that are important for both commercial and conservation purposes.


fish community; salinity; water management; Ebro Delta; coastal lagoons

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