Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Center for Coastal Resources Management (CCRM)
Salt marshes provide valued services to coastal communities including nutrient cycling, erosion control, habitat provision for crustaceans and fish (including juvenile and forage fish), and energy transfer from the detrital based food web to the greater estuarine system. Living shorelines are erosion control structures that recreate natural shorelines, such as fringing marshes, while providing other beneficial ecosystem services. Living shorelines are expected to provide fish and crustacean (nekton) habitat, but few comprehensive studies have evaluated nekton habitat use across a range of living shoreline settings and ages. We sampled the intertidal marsh and subtidal shallow water nekton community at 13 paired living shoreline and reference marsh sites, with living shorelines ranging in age from 2 to 16 years from construction. We compared nekton diversity, nekton community abundance, nekton community biomass, forage abundance, and juvenile abundance at reference marshes and living shorelines. Our results indicate that living shorelines are providing suitable marsh habitat for nekton communities, including juveniles and forage base species. The difference in living shoreline construction (rock sill, soil composition) did not appear to diminish habitat quality in the marsh or in nearshore waters, and rock sills may provide enhanced structural shoreline habitat. Living shorelines have the potential to combat marsh habitat loss and provide resilient nekton nursery habitat.
Nursery habitat, Refuge, Forage base, Juveniles, Nekton community, Salt marsh
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Guthrie, Amanda; Bilkovic, Donna Marie; Mitchell, Molly; Chambers, Randolph; Thompson, Jessica S.; and Isdell, Robert, Ecological equivalency of living shorelines and natural marshes for fish and crustacean communities (2022). Ecological Engineering, 176(106511).