Estuarine Nekton Assemblages along a Marsh-Mangrove Ecotone

Abstract

The marsh-mangrove ecotone along the southeastern US Atlantic coast occurs in northeast Florida within the Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas (GTM) estuary, where emergent vegetation transitions from marsh-dominated in the north to mangrove-dominated in the south. Dominant vegetation type has been shown to influence creek bank slope, nekton access to refuge, predation risk, and access to food. The northward distribution of mangroves in the estuarine mosaic is in flux in northeast Florida, and the effect on subtidal nekton, including commercially important species, is not known. To determine if estuarine nekton assemblages differ along the marsh-mangrove ecotone, a 60-km transition zone within GTM estuary was divided into 20 sub-zones where nearshore subtidal nekton communities were sampled monthly with trawls for 1 year. A total of 15,750 individuals consisting of 100 species were collected during the study period; 13 species made up 90% of the total catch. Subtidal nekton assemblages in marsh sites were dominated by typical salt marsh species (i.e., Leiostomus xanthurus, Anchoa spp., Bairdiella chrysoura) and had little overlap with assemblages in mixed and mangrove sites, which were dominated by structure-oriented species (i.e., Lagodon rhomboides and Eucinostomus spp.). Despite similar environmental conditions among the zones, there were clear differences in the subtidal nekton community along the marsh-mangrove ecotone, largely driven by fish species. This change in nekton community along the ecotone suggests that ecological processes such as food availability or predator/prey dynamics affected by changes in marsh surface habitats may result in differences in nekton species distribution and abundance across interconnected habitats such as in subtidal nekton that we observed in the GTM estuary.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

References

  1. Able, K.W., and M.P. Fahay. 2010. Ecology of estuarine fishes, temperate waters of the western North Atlantic. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Able, K.W., S.M. Hagan, and S.A. Brown. 2003. Mechanisms of marsh habitat alteration due to Phragmites: Response to young-of-the-year mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus) to treatment for Phragmites removal. Estuaries 26 (2B): 484–494.

  3. Able, K.W., D.N. Vivian, G. Petruzzelli, and S.M. Hagan. 2012. Connectivity among salt marsh subhabitats: Residency and movements of the mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus). Estuaries and Coasts 35 (3): 743–753.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Allen, D.M., S.S. Haertel-Borer, B.J. Milan, D. Bushek, and R.F. Dame. 2007. Geomorphological determinants of nekton use of intertidal salt marsh creeks. Marine Ecology Progress Series 329: 57–71.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Allen, D.M., S.A. Luthy, J.A. Garwood, R.F. Young, and R.F. Dame. 2013. Nutrient subsidies from nekton in salt marsh intertidal creeks. Limnology and Oceanography 58 (3): 1048–1060.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Anderson, M.J., and J. Robinson. 2003. Generalized discriminant analysis based on distances. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Statistics 45 (3): 301–318.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Anderson, M.J., and T.J. Willis. 2003. Canonical analysis of principal coordinates: a useful method of constrained ordination for ecology. Ecology 84 (2): 511–525.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Anderson, M.J., R.N. Gorley, and K.R. Clarke. 2008. PERMANOVA+ for PRIMER: Guide to software and statistical Methods. 1st ed. Plymouth, UK: PRIMER-E Ltd..

    Google Scholar 

  9. Armitage, A.R., C.A. Weaver, A.A. Whitt, and S.C. Pennings. in press. Effects of mangrove encroachment on tidal wetland plant, nekton, and bird communities in the western Gulf of Mexico. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science.

  10. Baker, R., B. Fry, L.P. Rozas, and T.J. Minello. 2013. Hydrodynamic regulation of salt marsh contributions to aquatic food webs. Marine Ecology Progress Series 490: 37–52.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Baker, R., M. Sheaves, and R. Johnston. 2015. Geographic variation in mangrove flooding and accessibility for fishes and nektonic crustaceans. Hydrobiologia 762 (1): 1–14.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Bretsch, K., and D.M. Allen. 2006. Tidal migrations of nekton in salt marsh intertidal creeks. Estuaries and Coasts 29 (3): 474–486.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Caudill, M.C. 2005. Nekton utilization of black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) and smooth Cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) sites in Southwest Louisiana. MS Thesis: Louisiana State University.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Cavanaugh, K.C., J.R. Kellner, A.J. Forde, D.S. Gruner, J.D. Parker, E. Rodriguez, and I.C. Feller. 2014. Poleward expansion of mangroves is a threshold response to decreased frequency of extreme cold events. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111 (2): 723–727.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Cavanaugh, K.C., J.D. Parker, S.C. Cook-Patton, I.C. Feller, A.P. Williams, and J.R. Kellner. 2015. Integrating physiological threshold experiments with climate modeling to project mangrove species' range expansion. Global Change Biology 21 (5): 1928–1938.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Cavanaugh, K.C., E.M. Dangremond, C.L. Doughty, A.P. Williams, J.D. Parker, M.A. Hayes, W. Rodriguez, and I.C. Feller. 2019. Climate-driven regime shifts in a mangrove-salt marsh ecotone of the past 250 years. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116 (43): 21602–21608.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Comeaux, R.S., M.A. Allison, and T.S. Bianchi. 2012. Mangrove expansion in the Gulf of Mexico with climate change: implications for wetland health and resistance to rising sea levels. Estuarine Coastal Shelf Science 96: 81–95.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Dahlberg, M.D. 1972. An ecological study of Georgia coastal fishes. Fishery Bulletin 70 (2): 323–353.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Dangremond, E.M., and I.C. Feller. 2016. Precocious reproduction increased at the leading edge of a mangrove range expansion. Ecology and Evolution 6 (14): 5087–5092.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Devaney, J.L., M. Lehmann, I.C. Feller, and J.D. Parker. 2017. Mangrove microclimates alter seedling dynamics at the range edge. Ecology 98 (10): 2513–2520.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Diskin, M.S., and D.L. Smee. 2017. Effects of black mangrove Avicennia germinans expansion on salt marsh nekton assemblages before and after a flood. Hydrobiologia 803 (1): 283–294.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Feller, I.C., D.A. Friess, K.W. Krauss, and R.R. Lewis. 2017. The state of the world’s mangroves in the 21st century under climate change. Hydrobiologia 803 (1): 1–12.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Garwood, J.A., D.M. Allen, M.E. Kimball, and K.M. Boswell. 2019. Site fidelity and habitat use by young-of-the-year transient fishes in salt marsh intertidal creeks. Estuaries and Coasts 42 (5): 1387–1396.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Glazner, R., J. Blennau, and A.R. Armitage. 2020. Mangroves alter predator-prey interactions by enhancing prey refuge value in a mangrove-marsh ecotone. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 526: 151336.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Goldberg, N.A., and J.N. Heine. 2017. Life on the leading edge: Phenology and demography of the red mangrove Rizophora mangle L. at the northern limit of its expanding range. Flora 235: 76–82.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Hammerschlag, N., A.B. Morgan, and J.E. Serafy. 2010. Relative predation risk for fishes along a subtropical mangrove-seagrass ecotone. Marine Ecology Progress Series 401: 259–267.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Hettler, W.F. 1989. Nekton use of regularly-flooded saltmarsh cordgrass habitat in North Carolina, USA. Marine Ecology Progress Series 56: 111–118.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Hoese, H.D., and R.H. Moore. 1998. Fishes of the Gulf of Mexico: Texas, Louisiana, and adjacent waters. 2nd ed. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Johnson, E.G., and D.B. Eggleston. 2010. Population density, survival and movement of blue crabs in estuarine salt marsh nurseries. Marine Ecology Progress Series 407: 135–147.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Johnston, C.A., and O.N. Caretti. 2017. Mangrove expansion into temperate marshes alters habitat quality for recruiting Callinectes spp. Marine Ecology Progress Series 573: 1–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Johnston, C.A., and D.S. Gruner. 2018. Marine fauna sort at fine resolution in an ecotone of shifting wetland foundation species. Ecology 99 (11): 2546–2557.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Kelleway, J.J., K. Cavanaugh, K. Rogers, I.C. Feller, E. Ens, C. Doughty, and N. Saintilan. 2017. Review of the ecosystem service implications of mangrove encroachment into salt marshes. Global Change Biology 23 (10): 3967–3983.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Kimball, M.E., D.M. Allen, P.D. Kenny, and V. Ogburn-Matthews. 2020. Decadal-scale changes in subtidal nekton assemblages in a warm-temperate estuary. Estuaries and Coasts 43 (4): 927–939.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Kneib, R.T. 1997. The role of tidal marshes in the ecology of estuarine nekton. Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review 35: 163–220.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Kneib, R.T. 2000. Salt marsh ecoscapes and production transfers by estuarine nekton in the southeastern United States. In Concepts and controversies in tidal marsh ecology, ed. M.P. Weinstein and D.A. Kreeger, 267–291. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Korsman, B.M., M.E. Kimball, and F.J. Hernandez Jr. 2017. Spatial and temporal variability in ichthyoplankton communities ingressing through two adjacent inlets along the southeastern US Atlantic coast. Hydrobiologia 795 (1): 219–237.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Kreeger, D.A., and R.I.E. Newell. 2000. Trophic complexity between producers and invertebrate consumers in salt marshes. In Concepts and controversies in tidal marsh ecology, ed. M.P. Weinstein and D.A. Kreeger, 187–220. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  38. La Peyre, M.K., and T. Birdsong. 2008. Physical variation of non-vegetated marsh edge habitats, and use patterns by nekton in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, USA. Marine Ecology Progress Series 356: 51–61.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Lunt, J., K. McGlaunn, and E. Robinson. 2013. Effects of black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) expansion on salt marsh (Spartina alterniflora) benthic communities of the South Texas coast. Gulf and Caribbean Research 25: 125–129.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Mazumder, D., N. Saintilan, and R.J. Williams. 2005. Temporal variations in fish catch using pop nets in mangrove and saltmarsh flats at Towra point, NSW, Australia. Wetlands Ecology and Management 13 (4): 457–467.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Mazumder, D., N. Saintilan, and R.J. Williams. 2006. Fish assemblages in three tidal saltmarsh and mangrove flats in temperate NSW, Australia: A comparison based on species diversity and abundance. Wetlands Ecology and Management 14 (3): 201–209.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. McIvor, C.C., and W.E. Odum. 1988. Food, predation risk, and microhabitat selection in a marsh fish assemblage. Ecology 69 (5): 1341–1351.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Mendelssohn, I.A., and J.T. Morris. 2000. Eco-physiological controls on the productivity of Spartina alterniflora Loisel. In Concepts and controversies in tidal marsh ecology, ed. M.P. Weinstein and D.A. Kreeger, 59–80. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

  44. Meyer, D.L., and M.H. Posey. 2009. Effects of life history strategy on fish distribution and use of estuarine salt marsh and shallow-water flat habitats. Estuaries and Coasts 32 (4): 797–812.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Miller, M.J., and K.W. Able. 2002. Movements and growth of tagged young-of-the-year Atlantic croaker (Micropogonias undulatus L.) in restored and reference marsh creeks in Delaware Bay, USA. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 267 (1): 15–33.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Moussalli, A., and R.M. Connolly. 1998. Fish use of the inundated waters of a subtropical saltmarsh-mangrove complex in Southeast Queensland, Australia. Short communication. In Moreton Bay and catchment, ed. I.R. Tibbetts, N.J. Hall, and W.D. Dennison, 471–472. Brisbane: School of Marine Science, The University of Queensland.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Nelson, J.A., L. Deegan, and R. Garritt. 2015. Drivers of spatial and temporal variability in estuarine food webs. Marine Ecology Progress Series 533: 67–77.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Nelson, J.A., J. Lesser, W.R. James, D.P. Behringer, V. Furka, and J.C. Doerr. 2019. Food web response to foundation species change in a coastal ecosystem. Food Webs 21: e00125.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Nemerson, D.M., and K.W. Able. 2020. Diel and tidal influences on the abundance and food habits of four young-of-the-year fish in Delaware Bay, USA, marsh creeks. Environmental Biology of Fishes 103 (3): 251–268.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Odum, W.E., and E.J. Heald. 1972. Trophic analyses of an estuarine mangrove community. Bulletin of Marine Science 22 (3): 671–738.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Potthoff, M.T., and D.M. Allen. 2003. Site fidelity, home range, and tidal migrations of juvenile pinfish, Lagodon rhomboides, in salt marsh creeks. Environmental Biology of Fishes 67 (3): 231–240.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Powell, M.A., R.J. Thierke, and A.J. Mehta. 2006. Morphodynamic relationships for ebb and flood delta volumes at Florida’s tidal entrances. Ocean Dynamics 56 (3-4): 295–307.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Rodriguez, W., I.C. Feller, and K.C. Cavanaugh. 2016. Spatio-temporal changes of a mangrove-saltmarsh ecotone in the northeastern coast of Florida, USA. Global Ecology and Conservation 7: 245–261.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Rountree, R.A., and K.W. Able. 2007. Spatial and temporal habitat use patterns for salt marsh nekton: implications for ecological functions. Aquatic Ecology 41 (1): 25–45.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Rozas, L.P. 1995. Hydroperiod and its influence on nekton use of the salt marsh: A pulsing ecosystem. Estuaries 18 (4): 579–590.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Rozas, L.P., C.C. McIvor, and W.E. Odum. 1988. Intertidal rivulets and creekbanks: corridors between tidal creeks and marshes. Marine Ecology Progress Series 47: 303–307.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Saintilan, N., N.C. Wilson, K. Rogers, A. Rajkaran, and K.W. Krauss. 2014. Mangrove expansion and salt marsh decline at mangrove poleward limits. Global Change Biology 20 (1): 147–157.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Scheffel, W.A., K.L. Heck, and L.P. Rozas. 2017. Effect of habitat complexity on predator-prey relationships: implications for black mangrove range expansion into northern Gulf of Mexico salt marshes. Journal of Shellfish Research 36 (1): 181–188.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Scheffel, W.A., K.L. Heck, and M.W. Johnson. 2018. Tropicalization of the northern Gulf of Mexico: impacts of salt marsh transition to black mangrove dominance on faunal communities. Estuaries and Coasts 41 (4): 1193–1205.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Sheaves, M. 2005. Nature and consequences of biological connectivity in mangrove systems. Marine Ecology Progress Series 302: 293–305.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Sheaves, M. 2009. Consequences of ecological connectivity: the coastal ecosystem mosaic. Marine Ecology Progress Series 391: 107–115.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Sheng, Y.P., B. Tutak, J. Davis, and V. Paramygin. 2008. Circulation and flushing in the lagoonal system of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTMNERR), Florida. Journal of Coastal Research 55: 9–25.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Simpson, L.T., C.E. Lovelock, J.A. Cherry, and I.C. Feller. 2020. Short-lived effects of nutrient enrichment on Avicennia germinans decomposition in a saltmarsh-mangrove ecotone. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 235: 106598.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Smee, D.L., J.A. Sanchez, M. Diskin, and C. Trettin. 2017. Mangrove expansion into salt marshes alters associated faunal communities. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 187: 306–313.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Smith, R.S., T.Z. Osborne, I.C. Feller, and J.E. Beyers. 2019. Detrital traits affect substitutability of a range-expanding foundation species across latitude. Oikos 128 (9): 1367–1380.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Valle-Levinson, A., G. Gutierrez de Velasco, A. Trasvina, A.J. Souza, R. Durazo, and A.J. Mehta. 2009. Residual exchange flows in subtropical estuaries. Estuaries and Coasts 32 (1): 54–67.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Walker, J.E., C. Angelini, I. Safak, A.H. Altieri, and T.Z. Osborne. 2019. Effects of changing vegetation composition on community structure, ecosystem functioning, and predator–prey interactions at the saltmarsh-mangrove Ecotone. Diversity 11 (11): 208.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  68. Webb, B.M., J.N. King, B. Tutak, and A. Valle-Levinson. 2007. Flow structure at a trifurcation near a North Florida inlet. Continental Shelf Research 27 (10-11): 1528–1547.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Weinstein, M.P., and S.P. O’Neil. 1986. Exchange of marked juvenile spots between adjacent tidal creeks in the York River estuary, Virginia. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 115 (1): 93–97.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Weinstein, M.P., J.H. Balletto, J.M. Teal, and D.F. Ludwig. 1997. Success criteria and adaptive management for a large-scale wetland restoration project. Wetlands Ecology and Management 4 (2): 111–127.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. Whitt, A.A., R. Coleman, C.E. Lovelock, C. Gillies, D. Ierodiaconou, M. Liyanapathirana, and P.I. Macreadie. 2020. March of the mangroves: drivers of encroachment into southern temperate saltmarsh. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 240: 106776.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  72. Williams, A.A., S.F. Eastman, W.E. Eash-Loucks, M.E. Kimball, M.L. Lehmann, and J.D. Parker. 2014. Record northernmost endemic mangroves on the United States Atlantic coast with a note on latitudinal migration. Southeastern Naturalist 13 (1): 56–63.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  73. Ziegler, S.L., K.W. Able, and F.J. Fodrie. 2019. Dietary shifts across biogeographic scales alter spatial subsidy dynamics. Ecosphere 10 (12): e02980.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas (GTM) NERR and we would like to thank staff from the GTM NERR (S. Eastman, T. Harding, M. Henzler, J. Lojacano, K. Petrinec, J. Pawelek, K. Rainer, M. Walsh), Flagler College (E. McGinley), and the University of North Florida (B. Korsman, A. Williams, K. Loucks), along with numerous other volunteers, for their assistance with this research. We thank B. Pfirrmann of the USC Baruch Marine Field Laboratory for reviewing an earlier draft of this manuscript. The findings and conclusions presented in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the NOAA National Estuarine Research Reserve system. This research was conducted pursuant to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission license number SAL-11-1035B-SR.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Matthew E. Kimball.

Additional information

Communicated by Henrique Cabral

Supplementary Information

ESM 1

(PDF 550 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kimball, M.E., Eash-Loucks, W.E. Estuarine Nekton Assemblages along a Marsh-Mangrove Ecotone. Estuaries and Coasts (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-021-00906-5

Download citation

Keywords

  • Salt marsh
  • Fish
  • Transient
  • Subtidal creek
  • Nekton assemblage