, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 58-69

Evaluating salt marsh restoration in Delaware Bay: Analysis of Fish response at former salt hay farms

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In a continuing effort to monitor the fish response to marsh restoration (resumed tidal flow, creation of creeks), we compared qualitative and quantitative data on species richness, abundance, assemblage structure and growth between pre-restoration and post-restoration conditions at two former salt hay farms relative to a reference marsh in the mesohaline portion of Delaware Bay. The most extensive comparison, during April–November 1998, sampled fish populations in large marsh creeks with otter trawls and in small marsh creeks with weirs. Species richness and abundance increased dramatically after restoration. Subsequent comparisons indicated that fish size, assemblage structure, and growth of one of the dominant species,Micropogonias undulatus, was similar between reference and restored marshes 1 and 2 yr post-restoration. Total fish abundance and abundance of the dominant species was greater, often by an order of magnitude, in one of the older restored sites (2 yr post-restoration), while the other restored site (1 yr post-restoration) had values similar to the reference marsh. The success of the restoration at the time of this study suggests that return of the tidal flow and increased marsh area and edge in intertidal and subtidal creeks relative to the former salt hay farms contributed to the quick response of resident and transient young-of-the-year fishes.