Fish living in the tidal fresh and brackish water reaches of the Zeeschelde Estuary were studied in samples collected from the cooling-water inlets of three power stations. Between July 1994 and June 1995, 42 different species were recorded including 26 marine migrants, 14 freshwater species and two diadromous species. Species number as well as fish abundance were correlated significantly with salinity and oxygen concentration. The community structure was analysed with a correlation biplot based on principal component analysis of the root-root transformed fish abundance. Four separated communities could be distinguished since the first principal component expressed a salinity and the second a temperature gradient. During summer and fall Pomatoschistus microps, P. minutus, P. lozanoi and Syngathus rostellatus were most abundant in the brackish-water reach. At this time, freshwater species seemed to avoid the freshwater area. During winter, Sprattus sprattus, Clupea harengus and Dicentrarchus labrax were the dominant species of the brackish-water zone while the freshwater reaches were dominated by Gasterosteus aculeatus. Migrating fish such as Pleuronectes flesus, Lampetra flaviatilis, Anguilla anguilla and Osmerus eperlanus were restricted to the brackish environment.
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