Comparative analysis of different survey methods for monitoring fish assemblages in coastal habitats

Baker, Duncan G.L. and Eddy, Tyler and McIver, Reba and Schmidt, Allison L. and Thériault, Marie-Hélène and Boudreau, Monica and Courtenay, Simon C. and Lotze, Heike K. (2016) Comparative analysis of different survey methods for monitoring fish assemblages in coastal habitats. PeerJ – the Journal of Life & Environmental Sciences, e1832. ISSN 2167-8359

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Coastal ecosystems are among the most productive yet increasingly threatened marine ecosystems worldwide. Particularly vegetated habitats, such as eelgrass (Zostera marina) beds, play important roles in providing key spawning, nursery and foraging habitats for a wide range of fauna. To properly assess changes in coastal ecosystems and manage these critical habitats, it is essential to develop sound monitoring programs for foundation species and associated assemblages. Several survey methods exist, thus understanding how different methods perform is important for survey selection. We compared two common methods for surveying macrofaunal assemblages: beach seine netting and underwater visual census (UVC). We also tested whether assemblages in shallow nearshore habitats commonly sampled by beach seines are similar to those of nearby eelgrass beds often sampled by UVC. Among five estuaries along the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada, our results suggest that the two survey methods yield comparable results for species richness, diversity and evenness, yet beach seines yield significantly higher abundance and different species composition. However, sampling nearshore assemblages does not represent those in eelgrass beds despite considerable overlap and close proximity. These results have important implications for how and where macrofaunal assemblages are monitored in coastal ecosystems. Ideally, multiple survey methods and locations should be combined to complement each other in assessing the entire assemblage and full range of changes in coastal ecosystems, thereby better informing coastal zone management.

Item Type: Article
Item ID: 16504
Keywords: Fish assemblage, Environmental monitoring, Beach seine, Coastal zone management, Underwater visual census (UVC), Survey selection
Department(s): Marine Institute > Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research
Marine Institute
Date: 21 March 2016
Date Type: Publication
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):

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