Original Research

Fish communities of the Wilderness Lakes System in the southern Cape, South Africa

Alexis A. Olds, Nicola C. James, M. Kyle S. Smith, Olaf L.F. Weyl
Koedoe | Vol 58, No 1 | a1364 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v58i1.1364 | © 2016 Alexis A. Olds, Nicola C. James, M. Kyle S. Smith, Olaf L.F. Weyl | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 October 2015 | Published: 31 August 2016

About the author(s)

Alexis A. Olds, CapeNature, Scientific Services; Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science, Rhodes University; Center for Invasion Biology, South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, South Africa
Nicola C. James, South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, Grahamstown, South Africa
M. Kyle S. Smith, South African National Parks, Rondevlei Scientific Services, South Africa
Olaf L.F. Weyl, Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science, Rhodes University; Center for Invasion Biology, South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity; South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, Grahamstown, South Africa


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Abstract

The Wilderness Lakes System, a temporarily open and closed estuary with three associated lakes situated in the southern Cape region of South Africa, was sampled using a range of sampling gears to assess the fish community. A total of 25 species were sampled throughout the system, with the highest diversity in the Touw Estuary (23 species) and the lowest in Langvlei (11 species). Estuary-associated marine species (13 species) dominated species richness with smaller proportions of estuarine resident (7 species), freshwater (3 species) and catadromous species (2 species). Estuarine resident species dominated the catch numerically. The size–class distribution of euryhaline marine species indicated that upon entering the Touw Estuary as juveniles, the fish move up the system towards Rondevlei where they appear to remain. Three freshwater species were recorded in the system, all of which are alien to the Wilderness Lakes System. Decreasing salinity in the upper lakes appears to be a driving factor in the distribution and increasing abundance of the freshwater fishes. Sampling followed a drought, with the system experiencing substantially increased levels of mouth closure compared to a similar study conducted in the 1980s. The timing of mouth opening and the degree of connectivity between the lakes influence the nursery function of the system as a whole. Management actions need to focus on improving ecological functioning of this system, in particular how mouth opening is managed, to facilitate nursery function and limit the establishment of invasive species.

Conservation implications: Key management actions are required to improve fish recruitment potential into and within the system. These include maintenance of adequate marine inflow through adherence to artificial mouth breaching protocols and improving connectivity between the lakes through sediment removal from localised deposition points within the connecting channels.


Keywords

Wilderness Lakes System; temporarily open/closed estuary; fish community

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Koedoe  vol: 60  issue: 1  year: 2018  
doi: 10.4102/koedoe.v60i1.1513