High spatial variability in a species‐rich assemblage of diadromous fishes in Hong Kong, southern China

Jeffery C. F. CHAN*, Jia Huan LIEW, David DUDGEON

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


China has experienced substantial coastal reclamation and damming of rivers. These changes have the potential to impact migrations of diadromous fishes between the sea and fresh waters, but the composition of these fishes and the impacts of barriers to their movement in China have received little attention. We inventoried the species composition and distribution of diadromous fishes, and the impacts of barriers on them, in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), southern China. Fish assemblages were surveyed using hand-nets, supplemented by cast-netting and single-pass snorkel surveys, in 24 small coastal streams across three regions. Surveys were undertaken on multiple occasions during the wet and dry seasons to account for the monsoonal tropical climate. Twenty-eight diadromous fishes were collected, mostly gobies, amounting to over half (53%) of the total richness of primary freshwater fishes; four additional species are known from literature records. Diadromous richness was 48% greater during the wet season, when all species were encountered. Richness varied substantially among streams, from a maximum of 17 (2 streams that were diversity hot spots) to none (3 streams). The most widespread diadromous fish was Glossogobius giuris (71% frequency of occurrence), followed by Mugil cephalus (58% occurrence) and Eleotris oxycephala (50% occurrence). The remaining 25 diadromous fishes occurred in fewer than half of the streams; 12 species were confined to a single stream and may be locally threatened. There were conspicuous spatial differences in diadromous assemblages across HKSAR, despite its limited extent (1114 km2), the proximity of the surveyed streams, and the broad geographic distribution of most species. Regional species assemblages were influenced by localized habitat characteristics, with a noticeable distinction between areas with and without large, fast-flowing, and highly oxygenated streams. The presence of in-stream barriers (weirs: 0.3–8.7 m high) did not affect spatial patterns in species assemblages, although, on average, diadromous richness was lower in weir-obstructed streams (4.0 vs. 6.9 species in unobstructed streams). In total, 18 species were confined to unobstructed streams or sections below weirs, whereas the remaining 10 species were recorded both above and below weirs. Only the mottled eel (Anguilla marmorata) and a goby (Stiphodon multisquamus) were able to ascend weirs over 2 m. Although at least 400 m of the lower course of each stream was sampled, diadromous fishes were confined to the first 300 m in 12 of the 13 weir-obstructed streams. Remarkably, the tally of 32 diadromous species in HKSAR exceeds the 19 known from mainland China, highlighting the need for further research on composition and conservation status of diadromous fishes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Fish Biology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Jun 2024
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Journal of Fish Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Fisheries Society of the British Isles.


  • Gobiidae
  • conservation
  • diadromy
  • marine and freshwater habitats
  • migration
  • seasonality


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