Is there a case to be made for repairing our coastal saltmarsh wetlands through quantifying itinerant fish use?

Mr Vishnu Prahalad1, Ms Violet Harrison-Day, Dr Peter McQuillan

1University Of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


Saltmarshes of temperate and subtropical Australia are listed as an endangered ecological community under the Australian Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to highlight their historic and ongoing loss and degradation. In the context of Tasmania, loss and degradation of saltmarshes has occurred most extensively in the north-west part of the State, in the Circular Head region. Previous management interventions focussed heavily on conserving shorebirds and had struggled to raise the profile of saltmarshes among the local community and decision makers. Fish use of saltmarshes has not been a major focus of efforts to conserve and repair saltmarshes, due in part to the lack of documented studies. While the importance of saltmarshes is being recognised for a range of factors, fish remain a compelling subject with broad resonance. Improving our understanding of fish use of saltmarshes could raise much needed public awareness and material support for saltmarsh rehabilitation. Our aim is to document fish use of the saltmarshes in the Circular Head area by addressing the following questions: (1) what is the diversity and density of fish in the saltmarshes of our study area during our sampling season? (2) are there any observable patterns of fish use relative to sampling location, tide cycle, water depth, diel time, temperature and salinity? (3) is there difference in fish use between saltmarshes of varying condition? and, (4) what are implications for management and further research?


Vishnu Prahalad has worked on saltmarsh ecology and management in Tasmania for close to ten years, closely collaborating with a range of government and non-government agencies and local groups. His publications include ‘a field guide to the plants of Tasmanian saltmarsh wetlands’, atlases for saltmarshes for all three regions of Tasmania and the ‘saltmarsh matters’ citizen science app and several other science communication materials.