Surf-zones form the primary interface between the sea and the shore on sedimentary coastlines. These sandy coastlines are often prime sites for human settlement and support a sizeable part of the economy, resulting in anthropogenic threats to beaches and surf-zones in many parts of the world. Surf-zones are important fish habitats, functioning as nursery, foraging, and spawning grounds. Despite the widely recognized importance of surf-zones for fish, there is no comprehensive published review of surf-zone fish ecology. In addition, coastal urbanisation is arguably one of the principal threats to sandy beaches, yet, the effects of urbanisation on surf-zone fish are poorly understood. Surf-zones are also functionally linked to abutting systems (mainly estuaries and offshore reefs). It is, therefore, likely that seascape connectivity influences surf-zone fish assemblages, however, this has not been examined to date. Thus, the two main aims of this thesis are to: 1) provide a synopsis of fish ecology on ocean-exposed beaches (Chapter 1); and 2) test whether urbanisation and seascape features influence the abundance, diversity, and species composition of fish assemblages in surf-zones (Chapter 2).
Submitted in the fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Science, University of the Sunshine Coast, 2016.