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The influence of marsh edge and seagrass habitat on fish and macroinvertebrates in a northern Gulf of Mexico coastal system
Proceedings of the 2022 Mississippi Water Resources Conference
Year: 2022 Authors: Gilpin R., Cebrian J., Baker R., Offner T., Ramsden S.
Habitat is one of the most important services provided by coastal ecosystems. In estuaries in the northern Gulf of Mexico (nGOM), marsh grasses and seagrass beds provide habitat for many fish and crustacean species (i.e., nekton) of ecological, commercial, and recreational importance. Namely, the structural complexity of marshes and seagrass beds provides excellent refuge and food resources, making them ideal nurseries for the recruitment of estuarine-dependent juveniles. Although both marshes and seagrass beds have been widely recognized as important nursery habitat for estuarine species, few have analyzed how these habitats interact and function together, thereby limiting our understanding of the variability of juvenile recruitment to coastal systems. Our objective is to assess the interaction between fringing marsh and adjacent seagrass for the provision of habitat for nekton. Our preliminary analyses point to evidence of functional habitat redundancy between fringing marshes and adjacent seagrass beds. Namely, indicating that in the location of study, fringing marsh and seagrass beds offer similar levels of habitat value to recruiting juveniles. At any rate, further analysis of our data is needed to confirm these preliminary results. Understanding how intertidal marshes and adjacent seagrass beds interact and function together is essential for implementation of concerted conservation and management efforts for these important nursery habitats.