Physiological performance measures and tolerance limits of estuarine indicator species in south Florida

Pamela Marie Bachman, Florida International University


Current water management practices in South Florida have negatively impacted many species inhabiting Florida Bay. Variable and high salinity has been identified as a key stressor in these estuaries. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) includes water redistribution projects that will restore natural freshwater flows to northeastern Florida Bay. My studies focused on the following central theme and hypotheses: Biological performance measures (i.e., growth, reproduction, survival), behavior (i.e., habitat preference and locomotor behavior) and diversity of estuarine fish will be controlled by changes in salinity and water quality that will occur as a result of the restoration of freshwater flow to the bay. A series of acute and subchronic physiological toxicity studies were conducted to determine the effects of salinity changes on the life stages (embryo/larval, juvenile, adult) and fecundity of four native estuarine fish (Cyprinodon variegatus, Floridichthys carpio, Poecilia latipinna, and Gambusia holbrooki). Fish were exposed to a range of salinity concentrations (freshwater to hypersaline) based on salinity profiles in the study areas. Growth (length, weight) and survival were measured. Salinity trials included both rapid and gradual change events. Results show negative effects of acute, abrupt salinity changes on fish survival, development and reproductive success as a result of salinity stress. Other studies targeted reproduction and critical embryo-larval/neonate development as key areas for detecting long-term population effects of salinity change in Florida Bay. Adults of C. variegates and P. latipinna were also examined for behavioral responses to pulsed salinity changes. These responses include changes in swimming performance, locomotor behavior and zone preference. Finally, an ecological risk assessment was conducted for adverse salinity conditions in northeastern Florida Bay. Using the U.S. EPA's framework, the risk to estuarine fish species diversity was assessed against regional salinity profiles from a 17-year database. Based on the risk assessment, target salinity profiles for these areas are recommended for managers.

Subject Area

Ecology|Biological oceanography

Recommended Citation

Bachman, Pamela Marie, "Physiological performance measures and tolerance limits of estuarine indicator species in south Florida" (2009). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3393408.