Temporal and spatial distributions of larval fish assemblages in the Lima estuary (Portugal)

Sandra Ramos, Robert K. Cowen, Pedro Ré, Adriano A. Bordalo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


The Lima estuary (NW Portugal) is at the end of an international watershed, whose potential role as a spawning and nursery habitat for local fish populations has not been previously examined. To address this knowledge gap, fortnightly plankton surveys were conducted between April 2002 and April 2004. A total of 12,903 larvae, belonging to 20 families and 50 taxa were collected, with a mean abundance of 8 individuals per 100 m3. Gobiidae was the most abundant family comprising 71% of the total catch, followed by Clupeidae with 12% of the total. The top six abundant taxa (Pomatoschistus spp., Sardina pilchardus, Ammodytes tobianus, unidentified Clupeidae, Symphodus melops and Solea senegalensis) represented 91% of the total catch. Fish larvae showed a seasonal trend with abundances increasing during spring and summer. Diversity was generally low (H′ = 0.65) with high dominance of very few taxa. Near the ocean, the larval fish assemblage was more diverse due to the presence of marine species. In the lower estuary Channel zone, abundance was lower than in the two upstream salt marsh zones (North and South zones) and no statistical differences in abundance or diversity values were found within the latter zones. ANOSIM results demonstrated seasonal differences in the species composition, mainly during the second winter period which was typified by a pelagic species A. tobianus. The community in the Channel zone was more diverse in comparison with the other zones, which were highly dominated by the most abundant species. The spatial and temporal trends of the most abundant species were typical for Iberian estuaries, with the exception of the low abundance of anchovy larvae and the unusually high numbers and frequency of S. pilchardus, usually mentioned as accidental in estuarine systems. Overall results suggest that the Lima estuary larval fish assemblage has a strong seasonality and affinity to the salt marsh zones. It seems that spawning seasonality controlled the presence of temporary estuarine residents, while environmental aspects controlled the general abundance trend of the resident species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-314
Number of pages12
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 2006


  • Estuary
  • Fish larvae
  • Portugal
  • Spatial-temporal patterns

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Oceanography


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