The dietary compositions of fish species over saltmarsh in a large south-eastern Australian estuary (Brisbane Water) were explored to ascertain the importance of this habitat type to the fish community of that estuary. Following tidal inundation, 12 fish species (<120 mm total length) were obtained using fyke nets, with Ambassis jacksoniensis being particularly abundant. The stomachs of all fish contained undigested prey, implying that they fed while on the saltmarsh. Three species (A. jacksoniensis, Atherinosoma microstoma and Redigobius macrostoma) fed nearly exclusively on the crab zoeae that were released in high numbers by saltmarsh crabs. The diets of these three species significantly differed from those of the other species, which comprised mainly foraminiferans, copepods, crabs, polychaetes, terrestrial insects and/or detritus. Substantial partitioning of food resources also occurred between the other nine species. With increasing body size, A. jacksoniensis fed more on benthic prey (polychaetes and copepods) and less on crab zoeae. This study highlights the importance of saltmarsh as providing both protection and food resources for fish species during even short periods of tidal inundation by its provision of a superabundant food source (crab zoeae) and other prey, and underscores the need for recognition of saltmarsh in management plans for fish.
Marine and Freshwater Research Vol. 60, Issue 9, p. 936-941