Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Articles

Characterization of the Marine Fish Assemblage Associated with the Nearshore Hardbottom of Broward County, Florida, USA

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Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science



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Fish, Coral reef, Hardbottom, Nursery grounds, Juveniles, Census, Beach renourishment, Western Atlantic Ocean


Some shallow (<7 m, water depth) nearshore hardbottom areas of southeast Florida have been reported to function as important juvenile fish habitat. Much of this area has been impacted by one or more local beach renourishments (sand fill to offset erosion). We characterized the nearshore fish communities and compared the fish assemblages adjacent to renourished beach to those adjacent to never-renourished beach along a 30-km stretch of coastline, primarily in Broward County, using three visual census methods. Two hundred transect-counts, 100 point-counts and 98 rover-diver counts were completed during June–August 2001. In transect- and point-counts, abundance of all fish species and their sizes were recorded; the rover-diver counts consisted of a simple species list. In total, 164 species and over 72,000 fish were recorded. The highest number of species (145) was recorded with the rover-diver counts. The transects-counts had 118 species and 109 species were recorded on the point-counts. With either all the sites adjacent to renourished beach pooled and compared to the pooled never-renourished sites or individual comparisons amongst renourished and neighboring never-renourished sites, no consistent differences were noted in fish abundance or species richness (ANOVA) or among fish assemblage structure (MDS plot of Bray–Curtis dissimilarity indices). However, although the data show no obvious distinct difference between the renourished and never-renourished sites, due to several important confounding factors (e.g., census methodology, longshore movement of sand fill) and the absence of baseline data prior to any renourishment, it would be premature to translate these results into management strategies.

The assemblage structure, in terms of percentage of juvenile fish (<5 cm) as well as percent contributions by family, was similar for the point-counts and transect-counts. However, in mean density per m2 of substrate, greater abundance and greater species richness values were recorded with the transect-counts than with the point-counts. Newly settled and early juveniles were the dominant component (>84%) of the inshore fish community, consisting primarily (>90%) of grunts (Haemulidae). After the grunts, the wrasses (Labridae) at about 5%, and damselfish (Pomacentridae) at roughly 2% were the predominant families. It is clear from this study and others that the nearshore hardbottom of Broward County is an important juvenile fish habitat, especially for grunts. However, the nearshore hardbottom does not appear to be obligate habitat for these fishes as fishes associated with this area are, apparently, not unique to the nearshore hardbottom either in species or ontogenic stage.







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©2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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