Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Marine Ecology Progress Series
Estuaries serve as important nursery habitats for larvae and juveniles of many species of fishes and invertebrates. Within the estuary, however, partitioning may occur among main channel. mud flat, tidal creek, and vegetated habitats. In this study we describe the egg, larval, and juvenile fish assemblages in shallow areas of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) of the lower Chesapeake Bay and compare them with those over the adjacent, shallow sand habitat. Densities at night over all habitats were about 1 order of magnitude higher than daytime densities, and were highest in summer. The SAV habitats were not important spawning sites for species with pelagic eggs, but were important for species brooding eggs or with demersal eggs. Overall, collections were dominated by the bay anchovy Anchoa mitchilli, , but contained many species not commonly found in the midchannel ichthyoplankton described in earlier studies; these include the croaker Micropogonias undulatus, rough silverside Membras martinica and northern pipefish Syngnathus fuscus. Conversely, the weakfish Cynoscion regaljs was rare in our collections as compared to main channel sampling areas. Our results suggest that SAV areas do not play an important nursery role for pelagic eggs and early larvae, which may suffer increased predation by planktivores in these areas. Later stages, however, may benefit from reduced predation pressure from piscivores and thus benefit from association with SAV.
Olney, JE and Boehlert, GW, Nearshore ichthyoplankton associated with seagrass beds in the lower Chesapeake Bay (1988). Marine Ecology Progress Series, 45, 33-43.