Abstract:

Penaeid shrimp represent an important group of valuable exploited species known to either directly utilise saltmarsh habitat, or utilise saltmarsh-derived productivity. Consequently, both areal coverage and primary productivity of saltmarsh habitat has direct consequences for the productivity of these important fisheries, and they are likely to be key beneficiaries of habitat repair. This study aimed to establish quantitative estimates of abundance of School Prawn, Metapenaeus macleayi, across a recovering wetland system; Hexham wetland in the Hunter River. Six surveys were conducted across the wetland using a specialised benthic sled, and absolute abundance of School Prawn was estimated. School Prawn were consistently more abundant in certain areas of the wetland (the highest abundance site supported 1017 prawns per 100 m2), and the average density across the wetland was 244 prawns per 100 m2. All areas of the wetland (except the area closest to the wetland mouth) supported the full range of size classes, and multiple cohorts of prawns moved through the system during the sampling program. The asymmetry observed in the distribution of prawns across the wetland is likely to be due to a combination of water quality and inter-specific interactions. These results show that the recovering wetland is supporting a high abundance of School Prawn. Our estimates of recruitment for School Prawn will also be useful in gauging the potential increases in fisheries productivity arising from habitat repair in this, and other systems.

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