Spatial and temporal patterns in the distribution of large bivalves in a permanently open temperate estuary: Implications for management
Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research
To inform management, baseline ecological studies in estuaries must be implemented at spatial scales that accommodate both environmental gradients and likely anthropogenic pressures. We describe fine-scale spatial patterns in the abundances and size structure of large infaunal bivalves inhabiting shallow sand habitats in the lower reaches of a relatively undisturbed, permanently open, temperate estuary. Sampling over 3 years at 19 sites during the autumn, when freshwater influence was minimal, revealed that Soletellina alba, Wallucina assimilis and Paphies elongata were consistently the most abundant of nine species present. Although most abundant near the ocean entrance, S. alba was distributed widely and shells of differing lengths, and presumably ages, were present at most sites, suggesting that this species recruited continuously throughout the study area when conditions were appropriate. In contrast, W. assimilis and P. elongata occurred only near or in the entrance channel of the Nornalup Inlet in areas where seagrass rhizomes may grow and where oceanic influences caused relatively turbulent conditions, respectively. Sediment structure appeared to exert only a moderate and intermittent influence on the bivalve assemblage at some sites where particularly large grain sizes occurred. This study provides important baseline information on the distribution and abundance of large bivalves in this estuary. These species are likely to be important in the trophic ecology of this system and are potential indicators of disturbance and ecosystem health.