Globally, coastal habitats are experiencing degradation due to the increase of human population growth, development along coastlines, and a constantly changing climate. This threatens the future production of critical ecosystem services such as shoreline stabilization, water filtration, nursery grounds for marine fauna, and many more. To combat these losses, resource managers are actively restoring coastal habitat. Past research suggests restoring habitats has mixed results; numerous factors influence restoration success. This study is among the first to assess the nekton community in the Matanzas River estuary and uses a BACI experimental design to quantify the effect of habitat restoration on the nekton community. Restoration sites are impacted wetlands with high elevation spoil piles that are leveled to increase intertidal habitat, enabling recruitment of intertidal flora and use by fauna. Fyke nets and seines were used to sample nekton. Over the course of 203 sampling efforts, a total of 39,857 specimens representing 62 unique taxa were collected. We compared samples collected from non-restored sites, sites recently restored in 2019, and sites restored in 2011. To quantify restoration success, nekton abundance, biomass, diversity, and indicator species were quantified. Sites restored in 2011 had greater abundances compared to the non-restored sites. No statistically significant differences in nekton community composition or nekton biomass between treatment types were detected. Common Snook, Clown Gobies, Silversides, juvenile Mullet, and Gulf Killifishes were indicator species demonstrating restoration success. Salinity, site type, and secchi depth played important roles in predicting abundances and diversity. These findings are consistent with recent restoration studies suggesting it can take years to see quantifiable differences in nekton communities following habitat restoration. Additionally, our work provides new insight on the positive ecological effects on nekton communities in restored coastal estuaries by manipulating wetland elevation to promote recruitment of intertidal flora.
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Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Sciences
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Masters Thesis (Campus-only Access)
Mahoney, Richard, "Examining a Fish Community and its Response to Coastal Restoration in a Dynamic Coastal Estuary" (2020). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 810.