The dominant fish species within impounded coastal wetlands in the southeastern US may be different from the species that dominate natural marshes. We tested the hypothesis that resident fish assemblages inhabiting impounded coastal wetlands in South Carolina would differ from resident assemblages in natural marshes of the southeastern United States. We used rarefied species richness, Shannon's H' diversity, J' evenness, Morisita's index of similarity, and the percent similarity index to compare resident fish assemblages from two impoundments to 12 open-marsh resident fish assemblages from previously published studies in North and South Carolina. We used rotenone to sample fish assemblages in impoundments. The assemblages in natural marsh habitat had been sampled with rotenone and seines. We classified comparisons yielding a similarity index ≥0.50 as moderately similar and those with an index ≥0.75 as very similar. Fifty-three percent of the among-impoundment comparisons (Morisita's index) were at least moderately similar, whereas 7% of impoundment—natural marsh comparisons were moderately similar. A difference in tidal influence was the only parameter in the best-fitting model describing the observed Morisita's indices. The index of similarity decreased by 63% when tidal influence differed between compared assemblages. Species richness and diversity were greater in impoundments than natural marshes, but evenness was similar between habitat types. Our results support the hypothesis that resident fish assemblages in impounded wetlands and natural marshes are different, and suggest that a degree of tidal influence is the most important factor behind the difference.
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Vol. 13 • No. 2