Effects of coastal urbanization on salt-marsh faunal assemblages in the northern Gulf of Mexico
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Coastal landscapes in the northern Gulf of Mexico, specifically the Mississippi coast, have undergone rapid urbanization that may impact the suitability of salt-marsh ecosystems for maintaining and regulating estuarine faunal communities. We used a landscape ecology approach to quantify the composition and configuration of salt-marsh habitats and developed surfaces at multiple spatial scales surrounding three small, first-order salt-marsh tidal creeks arrayed along a gradient of urbanization in two river-dominated estuaries. From May 3 to June 4, 2010, nekton and macroinfauna were collected weekly at all six sites. Due to the greater abundance of grass shrimp Palaemonetes spp., brown shrimp Farfantepenaeus aztecus, blue crab Callinectes sapidus, Gulf Menhaden Brevoortia patronus, and Spot Leiostomus xanthurus, tidal creeks in intact natural (IN) salt-marsh landscapes supported a nekton assemblage that was significantly different from those in partially urbanized (PU) or completely urbanized (CU) salt-marsh landscapes. However, PU landscapes still supported an abundant nekton assemblage. In addition, the results illustrated a linkage between life history traits and landscape characteristics. Resident and transient nekton species that have specific habitat requirements are more likely to be impacted in urbanized landscapes than more mobile species that are able to exploit multiple habitats. Patterns were less clear for macroinfaunal assemblages, although they were comparatively less abundant in CU salt-marsh landscapes than in either IN or PU landscapes. The low abundance or absence of several macroinfaunal taxa in CU landscapes may be viewed as an additional indicator of poor habitat quality for nekton. The observed patterns also suggested that benthic sediments in the CU salt-marsh landscapes were altered in comparison with IN or PU landscapes. The amount of developed shoreline and various metrics related to salt marsh fragmentation were important drivers of observed patterns in nekton and macroinfaunal assemblages.
Author Posting. © American Fisheries Society, 2014. This article is posted here by permission of American Fisheries Society for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science 6 (2014): 89-107, doi:10.1080/19425120.2014.893467.