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Effects of Nonnative Eurasian Watermilfoil, Myriophyllum spicatum, on Nekton Habitat Quality in a Louisiana Oligohaline Estuary

  • Scott B. AlfordEmail author
  • Lawrence P. Rozas
Article

Abstract

Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) provides critical habitat for estuarine nekton in the Gulf of Mexico, but habitat quality of SAV beds may change when nonnative species, such as Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), become established. We compared the habitat value of Myriophyllum with another common native SAV (Ruppia maritima) by using field collections to document shifts in nekton community structure and a field experiment to compare growth rates of commercially important juvenile white shrimp (Litopenaeus setiferus). Similar communities were collected from both SAV species, though nekton abundance scaled with SAV biomass. The habitat quality provided by Myriophyllum for white shrimp appeared to meet or exceed that of Ruppia, with densities and growth rates of shrimp in Myriophyllum (2.2 ± 0.47 m−2, 1.0 ± 0.07 mm TL day−1, 25.7 ± 2.98 mg day−1) higher than in Ruppia (1.0 ± 0.36 m−2, 0.6 ± 0.09 mm TL day−1, 11.6 ± 2.04 mg day−1). Though differences were detected between SAV species, other factors, such as hypoxia and interspecific competition, likely contributed to the differences we documented between these habitat types in shrimp densities and growth. Our study provides an example of a nonnative habitat-forming species providing a viable alternative to native habitat. This result contradicts the paradigm of negative effects associated with nonnative species following their introduction into an ecosystem.

Keywords

Nonnative species Submerged aquatic vegetation Nursery habitat quality Community structure Growth experiment Myriophyllum spicatum 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank M. Mace, J. Thompson, C. Fontenot, and T. Sullivan from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL) as well as T. Carruthers from the Water Institute of the Gulf and K. Darnell from the University of Southern Mississippi for their help with the field work. We thank T. Vincent and the Paul J. Rainey Wildlife Refuge for granting permission to conduct this study on the refuge and help identifying the study site. We thank D. L. Felder, P. L. Leberg, and S. M. Duke-Sylvester from ULL for their input in the design and analysis of this study in fulfillment of ULL’s Master of Science program.

Funding

This project was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC), a teaching assistantship from the ULL Department of Biology, and the Rockefeller Wildlife Scholarship (http://www.osfa.la.gov/rock.htm).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Louisiana at LafayetteLafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Nature Coast Biological StationUniversity of FloridaCedar KeyUSA
  3. 3.NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service/SEFSCEstuarine Habitats and Coastal Fisheries CenterLafayetteUSA

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