Multiple determinants of community structure in shallow marsh habitats, Cape Fear River estuary, North Carolina, USA
- Cite this article as:
- Weinstein, M.P., Weiss, S.L. & Walters, M.F. Marine Biology (1980) 58: 227. doi:10.1007/BF00391880
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The nekton of tidal creeks was studied at 17 sampling localities from September 1977 through August 1978, in the Cape Fear River estuary, North Carolina, USA. Prior to these dates, collections were made at 9 stations beginning in January 1977; these data were used to supplement conclusions drawn from the larger effort. Species recruited from the ocean utilized marsh habitats only temporarily and dominated the catches with over 70% of the total abundance. Their distribution was influenced by salinity gradients and to a lesser extent by substrate characteristics. In addition, temporal habitat partitioning with associated size differences of related species played an important role in structuring marsh nekton communities. A clearly defined ecotone was associated with the mesohaline-polyhaline transition zone, in slainities between 14 and 21‰ S. Numerous marine stenohaline forms were restricted to salinities above 16‰ S, thus increasing species richness in high salinity marshes. Despite differences in freshwater flows in 1977 and 1978, major features of the various marsh communities (species associations and relative abundances) exhibited little change throughout the Cape Fear estuary, indicating that these communities were relatively persistent in time. Standing crops for ocean-spawned species at the end of the growing season indicated that considerable annual export in the form of living biomass of fish and shellfish takes place from the marshes. Since most individuals of these species return to the ocean in the fall, an important energy link between the marshes and nearshore marine environment is demonstrated.