Seasonal fish dispersal in ephemeral wetlands of the Florida Everglades

Charles W. Goss, William F. Loftus, Joel C. Trexler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


We hypothesized that fishes in short-hydroperiod wetlands display pulses in activity tied to seasonal flooding and drying, with relatively low activity during intervening periods. To evaluate this hypothesis, sampling devices that funnel fish into traps (drift fences) were used to investigate fish movement across the Everglades, U.S.A. Samples were collected at six sites in the Rocky Glades, a seasonally flooded karstic habitat located on the southeastern edge of the Everglades. Four species that display distinct recovery patterns following drought in long-hydroperiod wetlands were studied: eastern mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) and flagfish (Jordanella floridae) (rapid recovery); and bluefin killifish (Lucania goodei) and least killifish (Heterandria formosa) (slow recovery). Consistent with our hypothesized conceptual model, fishes increased movement soon after flooding (immigration period) and just before drying (emigration period), but decreased activity in the intervening foraging period. We also found that eastern mosquitofish and flagfish arrived earlier and showed stronger responses to hydrological variation than either least killifish or bluefin killifish. We concluded that these fishes actively colonize and escape ephemeral wetlands in response to flooding and drying, and display species-specific differences related to flooding and drying that reflect differences in dispersal ability. These results have important implications for Everglades fish metacommunity dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S147-S157
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Aquatic refuge
  • Change-point analysis
  • Directed dispersal
  • Fish
  • Metacommunity


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