Southeastern Geographer

Use of Marsh Edge and Submerged Aquatic Vegetation as Habitat by Fish and Crustaceans in Degrading Southern Louisiana Coastal Marshes

Aug 28, 2017

Author(s): Kelly Darnell (The University of Southern Mississippi), Connor Pellerin (Episcopal Independent Private School of Baton Rouge)

Marshes in coastal Louisiana are undergoing rapid rates of loss making it important to understand how fish and crustaceans use these changing landscapes in order to provide better coastal ecosystem management.

In order to evaluate potential changes in habitat use in a degrading coastal ecosystem, researchers sampled aquatic animals in three dominant habitat types – marsh edge, submerged aquatic vegetation [SAV], and submerged bare substrate within brackish marshes undergoing rapid fragmentation in Terrebonne Bay, LA.

Researchers found that vegetated habitats supported greater fish and shellfish biomass, abundance, and species richness values compared to habitat without any vegetation at all (bare substrate). SAV supported greater fish and shrimp abundance than marsh edge, although fish and shrimp bio-mass were not significantly different. The confirmation that SAV provides equivalent or greater habitat value for some fish and crustacean species than marsh edge, in a moderate to highly fragmented marsh undergoing rapid disaggregation, demonstrates the importance of assessing SAV abundance and structure for sustainable fisheries management in coastal Louisiana.

The abstract is available here and the report is available on request.