Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom

Research Article

Trophic structure within the Bristol Channel: seasonality and stability in Bridgwater Bay

P. A. Hendersona1, D. Jamesa1 and R. H. A. Holmesa1

a1 Fawley Aquatic Research Laboratory, Marine Biology Unit, Fawley Power Station, Southampton, SO4 1ZU

A general description of the trophic inter-relationships and the food web within Bridgwater Bay, Somerset, England, is presented. This Bay is a lower estuarine site within the Bristol Channel. Particular attention is given to the use of the area by fish and larger crustaceans which are the dominant animal groups. Using data collected over a ten-year period of monthly sampling, the relative average biomass of all fish and larger crustaceans found within the Bay is calculated for each month of the year. These averages are used to produce food webs which also show species relative abundance for each calendar month.

It is shown that the trophic structure follows a seasonal cycle due to migration. The application of the concept of stability within such a dynamic system is discussed. The role of compartmentalization of the ecosystem into a number of loosely connected groups as an aid to overall stability is discussed. While there is no evidence that contemporaneous compartments exist, it is argued that inter-specific interactions are temporally limited because of the different periods of annual residence of the species. It is suggested that the stability and resilience to interference shown by these estuarine systems is enhanced by temporal partitions.