Test of salt marsh as a site of production and export of fish biomass with implications for impoundment management and restoration



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Salt marshes are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, and although they are thought to enhance the productivity of open estuarine waters, the mechanism by which energy transfer occurs has been debated for decades. One possible mechanism is the transfer of saltmarsh production to estuarine waters by vagile fishes and invertebrates. Saltmarsh impoundments in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida, that have been reconnected to the estuary by culverts provide unique opportunities for studying marsh systems with respect to aquatic communities. The boundaries between salt marshes and the estuary are clearly defined by a system of dikes that confine fishes into a known area, and the exchange of aquatic organisms are restricted to culverts where they may be easily sampled. A multi-gear approach was used monthly to estimate fish standing stock, fish ingress/egress, and predation. Changes in saltmarsh fish abundance, and exchange with the estuary reflected the seasonal pattern of marsh flooding in the xv northern Indian River Lagoon system. During a six month period of marsh flooding, saltmarsh fishes had continuous access to marsh food resources. Piscivorous fishes regularly entered the marsh via creeks and ditches to prey upon marsh fishes, and piscivorous birds aggregated following major fish migrations to the marsh surface or to deep habitats. As water levels receded in winter, saltmarsh fishes concentrated into deep habitats and migration to the estuary ensued. The monthly estimates of fish standing stock, net fish ingress, and predation were used to develop a biomass budget to estimate annual production of fishes and the relative yield to predatory fish, birds, and direct migration to the estuary. Annual production of saltmarsh fishes was estimated to be 17.7 g·m-2 salt marsh, which falls within the range of previously reported values for estuarine fish communities. The relative yields were at least 21% to piscivorous fishes, 14% to piscivorous birds, and 32% to export. Annual export of fish biomass was 5.6 g fish·m-2 salt marsh, representing about 2% of saltmarsh primary production. Saltmarsh fishes convert marsh production to high quality vagile biomass (fishes concentrate energy, protein, and nutrients as body mass) and move this readily useable production to the estuary, providing an efficient link between salt marshes and estuarine predators.

Publication type Thesis
Publication Subtype Thesis
Title Test of salt marsh as a site of production and export of fish biomass with implications for impoundment management and restoration
Year Published 2002
Language English
Publisher University of Florida
Contributing office(s) Southeast Ecological Science Center
Description xv, 195 p.
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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