The potential refuge that golf courses offer threatened biota in highly urbanized areas can impact regional ecological diversity. Golf course ponds, in particular, are maintained more intensely for water quality, water level, and shoreline vegetation than ponds urban residential areas. Forage fish are an important component of small ponds in south central Florida for facilitating energy transfer between primary production and higher trophic level organisms. This study examined if golf course and residential ponds had significantly different composition of forage fish in Hillsborough County, FL. During Spring and Summer of 2015, fish were seined from 11 ponds (ngolf=5, nres=6) in a highly urbanized region of the county. Each pond was surveyed three times, and all individuals were identified to the species and measured for total length to the closest 0.5cm.
Over 2,600 individuals representing eight species were captured during the study. The Jaccard Index showed 87.5% species overlap between pond types. The Shannon diversity and evenness indices showed no significant difference across pond types, but mean abundance in golf course ponds was significantly higher than that of urban residential ponds (p=0.09, α=0.10). Mean lengths were not significantly different, but juvenile composition did vary. Lengths were used to describe all individuals as juveniles or mature, defining maturity as the point at which they can reproduce. Residential ponds had a significantly higher proportion of juveniles (p=0.08, α=0.10) that were mostly attributed to juvenile predatory fish (24% of juveniles). Our results suggest that golf course ponds support a larger abundance of fish and offer characteristics that facilitate growth to adult stages for the forage fish that occupy the littoral zone of small ponds.