Article: Anthropogenic disturbance on nursery function of estuarine areas for marine species

Journal Article
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Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science
Courrat, A.;Lobry, J.;Nicolas, D.;Laffargue, P.;Amara, R.;Lepage, M.;Girardin, M.;Le Pape, O.
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Estuaries serve as nursery grounds for many marine fish species. However increasing human activities within estuaries and surrounding areas lead to significant habitat loss for the juveniles and decrease the quality of the remaining habitats. This study is based on the data of 470 beam trawls from surveys that were conducted in 13 French estuaries for the purpose of the European Water Framework Directive. It aimed at testing the effects of anthropogenic disturbances on the nursery function of estuaries. With a multispecific approach based on ecological guilds, two fish metrics, abundance and species richness of Marine juvenile migrant fishes, were used as proxies for the estuarine nursery function. Indices of heavy metal and organic contaminations were used to estimate anthropogenic disturbances impacting these estuaries. Fish metrics were described with statistical models that took into account: (a) sampling protocol, (b) estuarine features and (c) contamination. The results of these models showed that the fish metrics highly depend on the sampling protocol, and especially type of gear, depth and salinity, which highlights the necessity of considering such metrics at the sampling (trawl haul) scale. Densities and species richness of Marine juvenile fishes appeared to be strongly and negatively correlated to contamination indices. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that human disturbances impact the nursery function of estuaries. Finally, the densities of Marine juvenile migrant species appeared as a potential robust and useful fish indicator for the assessment of the ecological status of estuaries within the Water Framework Directive. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.