Effects of hydrographic conditions of ponds on juvenile fish assemblages in the Kakum mangrove system, Ghana
The importance of mangrove ecosystems as nursery grounds for fishes is well established and documented. This paper reports on the possible role of hydrographic dynamics in the selection and utilization of tropical mangrove ponds as nursery habitats for juvenile fishes of ecological and commercial importance. The study was conducted in the Kakum River Estuary mangrove ecosystem near Elmina in the Central Region of Ghana during the peak of the monsoon season. Fish assemblages were sampled using a cast net and a pole seine. Aspects of hydrographic conditions of the ponds were studied. A total of 265 fish specimens, belonging to 18 species and 12 families were sampled. The commonest fish was the blackchinned tilapia Sarotherodon melanotheron, a typical brackishwater fish in West Africa, which accounted for 66.4% of the total fish sampled. Ten of the 18 species belonging to 7 families, namely Elops lacerta, Eucinostomus melanopterus, Porogobius schlegelii, Gobionellus occidentalis, Mugil bananensis, Liza falcipinnis, Epinephelus sp., Serranus accraensis, Penaeus notialis and Callinectes amnicola were of marine origin. Spatial and temporal variations in the prevailing hydrographic conditions appeared to influence the fish species composition, density and size classes to varying degrees. Changes in salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity and pond size correlated significantly with abundance of juvenile fish. Major fluctuations in fish species composition occurred on a weekly basis with changing pond depth and volume, indicating the dynamic nature of mangroves ponds that may serve the ecological needs of different species over time. Smaller juvenile fishes seemed better adapted to the high variations in hydrographic conditions compared to larger juveniles. Higher fish densities and low species diversity were encountered when the ponds were shallow compared to deep ponds. The utilization of mangrove tidal ponds as nurseries by juvenile fish may therefore be influenced primarily by the salinity and pond size.