The Gambia River estuary: A reference point for estuarine fish assemblages studies in West Africa - Université de Bretagne Occidentale Access content directly
Journal Articles Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science Year : 2006

The Gambia River estuary: A reference point for estuarine fish assemblages studies in West Africa


The Gambia River is one of the last aquatic ecosystems in West Africa that has not yet been affected by strong environmental changes and human disturbances. In contrast to the neighbouring Casamance and Sine Saloum estuaries, the Gambia estuary is free of major climatic perturbation and remains a "normal" estuary, with a salinity range from freshwater to 39. The present paper aims to study the spatial and seasonal variability of fish assemblages in this estuary in terms of bio-ecological categories and of their relation with some environmental variables. Four surveys were conducted, from June 2001 to April 2002, in order to cover the major hydroclimatic events, at 44 sampling sites along the lower, intermediate and upper zones of the Gambia estuary (up to 220 km). Fish assemblages were sampled using a purse seine net, fish were identified to species level and environmental variables such as water depth, transparency, salinity, temperature and percentage oxygen saturation were measured. The main spatial structure of the fish assemblages and its seasonal changes were first studied using the STATIS-CoA multitable method. The combination of fish assemblages and environmental variables was then analysed using the STATICO method, designed for the simultaneous analysis of paired ecological tables. A total of 67 species were observed, belonging to all bio-ecological categories characterizing West African estuaries. The marine component of the community was largely dominant throughout the estuary, while the freshwater component was permanently observed only in the upstream zone. The main spatial structure was a longitudinal gradient contrasting marine and freshwater affinity assemblages, with strong seasonal variations. The most complete gradient was observed in December, at the beginning of the dry and cool season, while in June, at the end of the dry and warm season, there was the least structured gradient. The role of salinity, always correlated with temperature, was emphasized, while turbidity appeared to be another important factor. Oxygen and depth did not play a major role at the estuary scale. The relative importance of the bio-ecological categories varied according to the season and the distance to sea. Stable fish assemblages were observed in the lower zone at the end of the dry season, in the upper zone during the flood and in the middle zone throughout the year. In some situations, a relative inadequacy between fish assemblages and their environment was noticed. The present study contributes to the definition of the functioning of a "normal" West African estuary, the Gambia estuary, with balanced effects of marine and freshwater influences and the presence of all bio-ecological categories. The Gambia estuary can therefore be considered to be a reference ecosystem for further comparisons with other tropical estuarine ecosystems, subjected to natural or artificial perturbations.

Dates and versions

hal-00651224 , version 1 (13-12-2011)



Monique Simier, Charline Laurent, Jean-Marc Ecoutin, Jean-Jacques Albaret. The Gambia River estuary: A reference point for estuarine fish assemblages studies in West Africa. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 2006, 69 (3-4), pp.615-628. ⟨10.1016/j.ecss.2006.05.028⟩. ⟨hal-00651224⟩
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