Diversity and Distribution of Fishes in Tropical Estuary Kuantan, Pahang, Malaysia
A study on diversity and distribution of fish communities
and water qualities were carried out from January 2009 to December 2010 to cover
monsoon and non-monsoon at Kuantan estuary, Pahang, Malaysia. A total of 19
species of primary marine fish belong to 12 families were recorded. Out of 311
individuals the fish fauna was dominated by Ariidae followed by Lutjanidae and
Lactaridae. As such Ariidae contributes 50% of the fish caught in the study
area and its diversity index (H)
was 0.97. A The Ariidae family consist of four (4) species; Arius maculatus,
Arius sumatranus, Arius tenuispinis and Arius thalassinus.
The Ariidae family can be found in all stations as they are euryhaline (highly
tolerant to salinity) and this fish family are known to be a hardy estuarine
catfish. Among all species in family Ariidae, Arius thalassinus was the
most dominant (23%) among all species. As such collected species showed highest
species diversity (0.34) followed by Arius tenuispinis (0.25) compared
to other species. Arius tenuispinis alone contributed 11.90% among the
samples caught from all stations. The fishes were caught and recorded highest
in September-December. Pseudorhombus quinque ocellatus, Nibea soldado,
Sardinella fimbriata, Toxotes jaculatrix, Dasyatis ushiei,
Setipinna taty were the least dominant in the Kuantan estuary with 9.33%
of total abundance. Physico-temperatures, such as temperature (22.03-30°C),
Conductivity (10.342.43 mS cm-1), TDS (0.06-26.34 mg L-1),
salinity (0.05-29.09 ppt), DO (6.37-8.38 mg L-1), pH (4.97-8.03),
Chl a (0.01-1.33 μg L-1), nitrite (0.01-0.08 mg L-1),
nitrate (0.60-0.88 mg L-1), phosphate (0.24-0.40 mg L-1).
Nevertheless, the study envisages that the water quality and fish diversity
are still conducive in the Kuantan estuary. The fish diversity of Pahang estuary
was high monsoon compared to non-monsoons. The station 4 (LKIM fishing boat
jetty and adjacent Hospital Kuantan) is the most polluted area due to the presence
of several outskirts could be alarming for the sustainable development of fish
and other aquatic organisms in Kuantan estuary in the long run.
Received: October 01, 2012;
Accepted: October 06, 2012;
Published: January 23, 2013
In the tropics, rivers contribute greatly to wetland ecosystems in the form
of flood plains, ox bow lakes, freshwater swamps and estuaries. The estuary
is composed of interwoven ecosystem structures including water column, scrub-shrub,
forested wetland, emergent marsh, mud/sand flat, shallow slope and deep tidal
channel. These habitats contribute to maintaining biodiversity and making available
wetland bioresources such as fisheries to the local people. However, wetlands
are generally fragile and easily disturbed (Mitsch and Gosselink,
1989). For example, in Malaysia various human interventions on estuarine
ecosystems such as dam construction, industrial, housing land use activities,
have resulted in the reduction of fish diversity over a period of time (Ali
et al., 1996).
Human activity has altered fish habitats by filling or dredging these areas,
constructing solid piers, diverting and increasing runoff, decreasing base flow
and changing drainage patterns in watersheds, releasing contaminants into the
air and water, increasing nutrient loading and releasing chemical pollutants.
Unfortunately, many species are increasingly threatened because of declining
conditions in natural aquatic ecosystems in Kuantan estuary. The greatest threats
to these fish fauna arise from environmental perturbations resulting from dredging
and sand mining which induced suspensions could be potential to change and impact
local biota. These includes: habitat loss and fragmentation; degraded water
quality; declining indigenous species. Land use practices can lead to non-point
source pollution affecting fish in estuaries. Improper land use management practices
can result in increased sediment, nutrient, organic-chemical and heavy-metal
loadings to streams while creating abnormal flow rates. All have negative effects
on aquatic communities by destroying habitat, increasing turbidity, lowering
dissolved oxygen levels, disrupting food webs, decreasing diversity, raising
stream temperatures, altering stream flow and increasing the abundance of undesirable
species. Urbanization and industrialization of the lower reaches of many estuaries
and tributaries have resulted in extensive filling of wetlands and reduce shallow
water and riparian habitat (Lowe-McConnell, 1990, 1995;
Whitfield, 1996). A continuation of the environmental
degradation in the water quality of the rivers and estuary would result in an
increase in the economic costs to be borne by the state due to loss or revenue
from fisheries sectors (Ali et al., 1996; Mazlan
et al., 2006). Fishing is also an important traditional activity
for coastal peoples. With pressure from an increasing number of fishermen with
more efficient technology and competition for use of estuary for incompatible
purposes, the estuarine fisheries are an important management issue.
Kuantan estuary is receiving increasing pressure as people continue to utilize
the coastal zone for housing, recreation and industrial purposes. It was found
that, although the fishes of Malaysia had been studied in the past, a considerable
amount of the information on fresh fishes was from small rivers, lakes, reservoirs
and coastal waters in Malaysia (Bishop, 1973; Mohsin
and Ambak, 1996; Ambak and Jalal, 1998, 2006;
Kamaruzzaman et al., 2002). In fact, the Kuantan
estuary, have never been seriously considered as a complete study. As scientists,
conservationists and policy-makers wrestle with how to balance development with
maintaining biodiversity, its important to understand what controls patterns
of biodiversity and how the biodiversity of a system will respond to different
River and estuarine ecology and management activities in most countries suffer
from an inadequate knowledge to the constituent biota, especially in large poorly
investigated tropical river systems. Fisheries assessments are one of the best
tools for fisheries management to understand the populations of fish in a given
area. We must seek to protect undisturbed habitat, maintain functioning habitat
and, if possible, improve or create habitat beneficial to both game and non-game
species (Magurran, 1988; Jalal et
al., 2009). Thus, it is an urgent need to establish a long term monitoring
study to determine the ecological distribution of various fish species in Kuantan
estuary. Based on this context, this study is focused on spatial and temporal
distribution and species diversity of commercial fishes in Pahang estuary.
Spatial diversity by the species present in an environment has long been recognized
as a frequent occurrence. In terrestrial systems, anthropogenic habitat loss
and fragmentation has altered the spatial distribution of organisms and change
competitive and predator-prey interactions (Debinski and
Holt, 2000; Haila, 2002). Furthermore, some evidence
showing that human-mediated effects can alter space use by fishes with cascading
effects on lower trophic levels (Olin et al., 2002).
Demonstrations of spatial partitioning in fish communities vary considerably,
from purely qualitative descriptions of the different habitats to be used proportionally
of each category of habitat of each species. An understanding of fish-habitat
relations in aquatic habitat is a major concern for both fisheries biologists
and ecologists. Knowledge of fish-habitat relations can be used to protect in
stream flows enhance aquatic habitats and mitigate effects of channelization
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Study area: The sampling was carried out in Kuantan Estuary (Fig.
1) from January 2009 to December 2010 to cover monsoon and non-monsoon seasons.
The non-monsoon season sampling was scheduled from January to August. While
it was monsoon from September to December Kuantan estuary runs from the river
Lembing through Kuantan City before flowing out to South China Sea. It has a
diverse ecosystem and also rich with natural resources like prawn, shell fish
and some mangrove species. However, this estuary is now threaten by the several
kinds of pollution as this river situated near the fisherman villages and the
development of this area is currently in rapid progress adjacent to the shore
Sampling and data analysis: Sampling was done by separating the study
area into 5 different stations. The distance between each station was 500 m.
Those stations were selected based on different locations of ecosystem. Station
1 is the area that near to the open sea. Station 2 near the fishing village
occupied with fishing activity. Station 3 which situated near the mangrove swamp.
Station 4 is the most disturbed area because all the pollutants from non point
sources enter into this area. Station 5 is the last station which can be considered
as undisturbed area and it is near the fresh water zone.
|| Kuantan Estuary and its sampling areas, Google-Map data (c)
2009 and, Map IT, Europa
The sampling stations were lies in-between N03°47.706E103° to
N03°46.761E103°18.698. Fish samples were collected using
Random Stratified Sampling Method from five zones of the sampling stations.
Physico-chemical parameters: The physicochemical parameters such as
temperature, conductivity, salinity, DO and pH of the water was done along the
Kuantan River which covers 5 different stations by using Hydrolab Data Sonde
4a, USA. All the data were measured by Hydro lab Datasonde 4a, USA.
All the data were recorded in situ and then analyzed in the laboratory. Standard
method APHA 4500-N03-B, 1995 was used to evaluate was used to evaluate
Nitrogen -Nitrate (N03¯B) at wavelength (λ) of 507 nm.
HACH programme 2515 (detection range 0-0.50 mg L-1) was used to measure
nitrate in the sample. Standard Method APHA 450-P-D, 1995 was used to evaluate
phosphorous value at wavelength (λ) of 420 nm. HACH programme 541 (detection
range: 0.00-33.00 mg L-1) was used to measure phosphate level in
the water column (Parsons et al., 1992). Differences
in physic-chemical parameters among the different stations were calculated using
student t-test analysis. The p<0.05 was considered to be statistically significant
(Jalal et al., 2008). Fish sampling was done
from different locations to investigate the fish diversity in different environments.
The sampling was conducted from 1st January 2009 to 31st December 2010 in both
monsoon and non monsoon seasons. Studies on fish in different tropical and temperate
lakes and rivers appear to have chiefly on nets (Lowe-McConnell,
1990, 1995; Welber et al.,
2003). The fishing gear were consisted of gill nets (1, 2 and 3 inch mesh
size, 100 m long and 3 m depth), drift nets and fish trap to catch all sizes
of fish. The gill nets were set perpendicular to the shore and vertically from
the surface to the deeper part of the river so that the spatial distribution
of the fishes could be easily analyzed. The fish specimens were fixed in 10%
formalin solution and preserved in 70% alcohol at the laboratory of the Faculty
of Science, International Islamic University of Malaysia Kuantan campus. All
fishes were identified using available taxonomic keys (Mohsin
and Ambak, 1996; FAO, 1974). The species diversity
of fishes in Pahang Estuary was calculated by using Shannon-Weiner index (Shannon
and Weaver, 1963; Jalal et al., 2008).
The results of the physicochemical parameters found in this study are presented
in Table 1. The temperature of this study showed that no significant
differences among the stations with p>0.05. The spatial distribution of temperature
among five stations showed that there were no significant differences between
the stations at p>0.05 level of significance. The highest temperature was
28.7 °C observed in June at St. 2 whilst the lowest 22.03°C in November
at St.5. The conductivity also showed that there were no significant differences
between the stations at p>0.05 level of significance.
|| Physicochemical parameters (Jan-Dec, 2010) in Kuantan Estuary
|Values with different superscripts in same row are significantly
different at p<0.05
|| Abundance and diversity of fishes in Kuantan Estuary (Jan-Dec,
The highest conductivity showed in 40.95±1.27 at St. 1 and lowest in
15.02±3.86 at St. 5. Due to urbanization and industrial development lot
of human activities present at Station 1-4. In fact the amount of total dissolved
solids might be higher in those stations which were higher compared to Station
5 due to the overloading of nutrients and urban and rural runoff. Station 5
is considered as most undisturbed area. There were no human activities adjacent
to the shore line areas. Thus, the amounts of total dissolved solids seemed
to be lower at Station 5 (Table 1).
In this study, Conductivity, TDS, Salinity and Chl a showed significant differences
between all the five stations with p<0.05 (Table 1). The
temperature was higher at St. 1 (28.71) and lower at St. 5 (25.08). Conductivity
was higher at St. 1. (40.95 mS cm-1) and lower at St. 5 (15.02 T
mS cm-1). The study shows the fluctuation of salinity in estuarine
water which was higher at St. 1 (25.54 ppt.) near the open water gradually reduced
towards the upstream at St. 5 (0.54). DO content lowest at the St. 4 (6.83)
and the highest at St. (8.04) at station 2. The maximum pH value was recorded
at St. 1 (7.60) at St.1, whilst minimum pH value was (6.32) at St. 5. Generally,
during north-east monsoon the pH value slightly decreased may be due to dilution
effect. This may also be demonstrated by the increase in pH value during non-monsoon
season (February-July). Excessive nutrients and plant growth can in turn decrease
DO levels and increase turbidity. In this study, the chlorophyll a was measured
in μg L-1. The range of chlorophyll a in all stations is between
0.03 and 1.141 μg L-1. When refer to Table 1,
it clearly shows that the amount of chlorophyll a in the surface water of Station
4 is relatively higher (1.14 μg L-1) compared to other stations.
Station 4 is located near the Hospital Tengku Ampuan Afzan (HTAA), where rapid
growth of urban development exists and the presence of obnoxious algal mat due
to the several outskirts from the hospital and jetty areas.
Fish diversity and distribution: A total of 19 species of primary marine
fish belong to 13 families were recorded from Kuantan Estuary, throughout the
sampling period (January-December, 2009-2010) (Table 2). The
fish fauna was dominated by Ariidae followed by Lutjanidae and Lactaridae. Out
of 19 species of fishes caught in Kuantan Estuary, 4 species from family Ariidae
were dominant and they contribute 50% of the fish caught in the study area with
the diversity index (H) of 0.97. The Ariidae family consist of four (4)
species which is; Arius maculatus, Arius sumatranus, Arius
tenuispinis and Arius thalassinus. The Ariidae family can be found
in all stations as they are euryhaline (highly tolerant to salinity) and able
to stay with narrow range of dissolved oxygen and fluctuation of pH. Among all
species in family Ariidae, Arius thalassinus was the most dominant (23%)
among all species. As such collected species showed highest species diversity
(0.34) followed by Arius tenuispinis (0.25) compared to other species.
Arius tenuispinis alone contribute 11.90% among the samples caught from
all stations. The fishes were caught were recorded highest in September 50 individuals
followed by 42 individuals in October with the total catch of 311 individuals.
The Ariidae family occurs in all tropical and subtropical seas and there are
numerous freshwater and estuarine dwellers as well (Jalal
et al., 2008). The eastern Pacific species are largely coastal fishes
which frequent sand and mud bottoms of bays, harbours and brackish river mouths;
a few species range into deeper water and are seen in trawler catches. Freshly
captured specimens should be handled with care as the sharp spines in front
of the dorsal and pectoral fins are venomous. Family Lactariidae was the second
highest family caught in the study area, this family contribute 11.89% of all
fish caught with the diversity index (H) of 0.33 during sampling period.
The family of Lactariidae from sampling area was comprised of two species Lactarius
lactarius and Lates calcarifer. There were no significant variations
of these two fishes throughout the sampling period. The distributions of fishes
were consistent among the months. The diversity index (H) of two species
from this family were Lactarius lactarius 0.20 and Lates calcarifer
0.13. In the study area these species was caught mostly in stations 3-4 which
adjacent to mangrove area. Sciaenidae family was the third highest 8.36% comprises
Paranibea semiluctuosa (6.11%) and Pennahia macrophthalmus (2.25%).
The diversity index of these two species was 0.25. Sciaenids are generally bottom
dwellers that inhabit sandy or muddy areas, frequently off beaches or in sheltered
bays, estuaries and river mouths. During this study, this species was mostly
caught in St.1-St.2 which are the high saline zones in the study area. The family
of Engraulidae contributes 1.93% of the collected sample with diversity index
(H) 0.08, was represented by Setipinna taty. They are generally
very accepting of a wide range of temperatures and salinity. Large schools can
be found in shallow, brackish areas with muddy bottoms, as in estuaries and
bays. Some species from this family enter or live in freshwater. The anchovy
is a significant food source for almost every predatory fish in its environment.
This small pelagic fish is also important for human consumption in indo-pacific
region and they are also important live bait used by pole and line tuna fisheries.
Eleutheronema tetradactylum from family Polynemidae, contributed 2.25%
of the total catch with diversity index (H) value of 0.09. They were locally
known as Thread fish and Ikan Kurau found at St. 1 during sampling period. Juveniles
are found in estuaries as they are protected from predators. They usually form
loose schools, although larger fish are more often observed in pairs or singly.
This is a commercial fish and has a high value in the market, usually they entered
mangrove area to feed. One of the first parameters to be affected by poor water
quality is the reduction of fish species which ultimately. Fish species might
not become extinct and there will still be some species that can tolerate extremely
adverse water quality condition such as Arius sp. However, these species
were not harvested because of their very low market values. Arius sp. are species
with catholic food habits, feeding on materials ranging from domestic wastes
to rotting carcasses. However, other species preferring good quality water will
disappear from the population. Those species to disappear first would usually
be the estuarine sp. that prefers clear, cool and fast flowing water with high
DO concentrations. During the sampling activities several individuals of commercially
important species such as Siakap (Sea Bass) and Gelama (Red Snapper) were caught.
Although the number fishes were not significant but the fact that these transient
species still moved into Pahang estuary bodies for their spawning purposes.
We believe that if the water quality of the river can be improved further, species
such as these commercially valuable species would return to Pahang estuary.
The disappearance of most of expensive marine commercial species Kerapu (Grouper)
in estuarine ecosystem indicates that the water quality has changed enough to
result in the disappearance of these more environmentally sensitive species.
During our survey, none of these species were observed in the middle and lower
river sections where environmental degradation is the highest. Our definition
of commercially important species has changed over the years due to changes
in dietary patterns. Species that were considered as "rough fish" 15 years ago
are now highly prized. It is fortunate that these commercially valuable species
are also one of the hardiest groups fresh water species. As such Sciaenidae
and Engraulidae none of these species are adversely affected in the Kuantan
estuary. However, as hardy as these species may be, it will still be stressing
for them to live in a continuously degraded environment. For example, although
they can tolerate low DO level due to their air breathing capability, prolonged
exposure to anoxic condition can result in stunted growth. Furthermore these
species can also "leave" their original habitat to search for better ones if
the degraded condition continues. Thus it is better in the long term to improve
the aquatic environment so that these species can reproduce and grow and contribute
to the local fisheries.
Based on the results obtained, the highest temperature was 28.7°C observed
in June at St. 2 whilst the lowest 25.08°C in November at St.5. A general
increase in the water temperature recorded on June can be attributed to the
general increase in atmospheric temperature and lack of intensive rain (Sekar
et al., 2009). Whereas, the low temperature found in December and
month might be due to the heavy rain falls during monsoon the surface runoff
started from September to January in the tropical ecosystem (Law
and Jong, 2006). According to Bong and Lee (2008),
the average surface seawater temperature for typical tropical waters ranged
from 28.6-30.0°C. Estuarine fish are mainly euryhaline forms that are able
to exist in unstable surroundings surviving variable salinities, currents and
food supplies (Koutrakis et al., 2000). The salinity
of water which has a significant influence on the species composition of the
resident biota, fluctuated within the estuary with ebb and flow of tides and
with changes in freshwater run-off. Besides, salinity in an estuary also varies
according to the location in the estuary, the daily tides and the volume of
freshwater flowing into the estuary (http://www.noaa.gov/
ocean.html). High salinity found on the month of April in the estuary was
due to deficit river discharge associated with the low rainfall, as the general
effect of the monsoon season.
The fish diversity was quite high even though the estuary is quite small and
continuous disturbing by fishing boats. Most of the fishes were caught near
the mangrove area (St. 3) during monsoon seasons (September-December) which
probably due to the breeding season of estuarine fishes. From this study the
Ariidae family was dominant among other family in the study area, they contribute
50% of the fish caught in the study area with the diversity index (H)
of 0.97. Similar finding was observed in the Pahang estuary where Ariidae species
occupied 50% of the fish caught (Jalal et al., 2008).
The Ariidae family occurs in all tropical and subtropical seas and there are
numerous freshwater and estuarine dwellers as well. The eastern Pacific species
are largely coastal fishes which frequent sand and mud bottoms of bays, harbours
and brackish river mouths; a few species range into deeper water and are seen
in trawler catches. Freshly captured specimens should be handled with care as
the sharp spines in front of the dorsal and pectoral fins are venomous. Fishermen
often snap these off before untangling the fish from their nets (Ahmad
Azfar, 2010). Family Lactariidae was the second highest family caught in
the study area, this family contribute 11.89% of all fish caught with the diversity
index (H 0.33) during sampling period. The family of Lactariidae from
sampling area were comprises two species Lactarius lactarius and Lates
calcarifer. The species is widely distributed in the tropical and subtropical
areas of the western Pacific and Indian Ocean. Its range of distribution includes
the areas from Australia, Southeast Asia, the Philippines and countries bordering
the Arabian Sea.
Eleutheronema tetradactylum from family Polynemidae, was also found
in the study area, during this study. They contribute to 2.25% of the total
catch with diversity index (H)
value of 0.09. They were known as Thread fish and Ikan Kurau in Malay. They
were found in St. 1 during sampling period. Juveniles are found in estuaries
as they are protected from predators. They usually form loose schools, although
larger fish are more often observed in pairs or singly. This is a commercial
fish and has a high value in the market, usually they entered mangrove area
to feed. One of the first parameters to be affected by poor water quality is
the reduction of fish species which ultimately. Fish species might not become
extinct and there will still be some species that can tolerate extremely adverse
water quality condition such as Arius species. Although, the number fishes
were not significant but the fact that these transient species still moved into
Kuantan estuary bodies for their spawning purposes. It can be concluded that
if the water quality of the river can be improved further, species such as these
commercially valuable species would return to Kuantan estuary. The disappearance
of most of expensive marine commercial species Kerapu (Grouper) in estuarine
ecosystem indicates that the water quality has changed enough to result in the
disappearance of these more environmentally sensitive species.
This research finding is an offshoot of ongoing ecosystem studies of Kuantan
Estuary, Pahang, Malaysia funded (EDW-0902-207) by the Research Management Centre,
IIUM. We are grateful to Br. Nahar, Br. Azfar and Br. Azizul for their assistance
throughout the sampling period.
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