Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Marine Ecology Progress Series
Habitat loss is occurring rapidly in coastal systems worldwide. In Chesapeake Bay, USA, most historical oyster reefs have been decimated, and seagrass loss is expected to worsen due to climate warming and nutrient pollution. This loss of habitat may result in declining diversity, but whether diversity loss will equate to loss in ecosystem function is unknown. A bivalve survey was conducted in a variety of habitat types (seagrass, oyster shell, shell hash, coarse sand, detrital mud) in 3 lower Chesapeake Bay sub-estuaries from spring 2012 through summer 2013 to examine the correlation between bivalve densities, habitat type, habitat volume (of material retained on 3 mm mesh), and predator density. Bivalves were analyzed as functional groups based on feeding mode, living position, and predator defense strategy. On average, seagrass supported one additional functional group, and diversity was increased 68-94%, in seagrass compared to the other habitats examined. Species richness and functional group richness were positively correlated with habitat volume. The greatest densities of deposit-feeding bivalves were in detrital mud habitats, the greatest densities of thin-shelled and surface-dwelling bivalves were in seagrass habitats, and the greatest densities of armored bivalves were in oyster shell habitats. Small, thin-shelled bivalves were negatively correlated with densities of predators, including blue crabs Callinectes sapidus and cownose rays Rhinoptera bonasus. Overall, bivalve diversity was as - sociated with habitat type, habitat volume, and predator densities. These results suggest that all habitats, and particularly seagrass, play a role in maximizing bivalve functional diversity in Chesapeake Bay.
Chesapeake Bay, Seagrass, Habitat loss, Ecosystem services, Oyster
Glaspie, Cassandra N. and Seitz, Rochell D., Role of habitat and predators in maintaining functional diversity of estuarine bivalves (2017). Marine Ecology Progress Series, 570, 113-125.