Research Paper

Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 65-97

Long-term response of fishes and other fauna to restoration of former salt hay farms: multiple measures of restoration success

  • K. W. AbleAffiliated withMarine Field Station, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University Email author 
  • , T. M. GrothuesAffiliated withMarine Field Station, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University
  • , S. M. HaganAffiliated withMarine Field Station, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University
  • , M. E. KimballAffiliated withMarine Field Station, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University
  • , D. M. NemersonAffiliated withNational Aquarium in Baltimore
  • , G. L. TaghonAffiliated withInstitute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University

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Abstract

This synthesis brings together published and unpublished data in an evaluation of restoration of former salt hay farms to functioning salt marshes. We compared nine years of field measurements between three restored marshes (Dennis, Commercial, and Maurice River Townships) and a reference marsh (Moores Beach) in the mesohaline portion of Delaware Bay. In the process, we compared channel morphology, geomorphology, vegetation, sediment organic matter, fish assemblages, blue crabs, horseshoe crabs, benthic infauna, and diamondback terrapins. For fishes we compared structural (distribution, abundance) and functional (feeding, growth, survival, reproduction, production) aspects to evaluate the restored marshes in an Essential Fish Habitat context. Marsh vegetation and drainage density responded gradually and positively with restored marshes approximating the state of the reference marsh within the nine-year study period. The fauna responded more quickly and dramatically with most measures equal or greater in the restored marshes within the first one or two years after restoration. Differences in response time between the vegetation and the fauna imply that the faunal response was more dependent on access to the shallow intertidal marsh surface and intertidal and subtidal creeks than on characteristics of the vegetated marsh. The fishes in created subtidal creeks in restored marshes responded immediately and maintained fish assemblages similar to the reference marsh over the study period. The intertidal creek fish assemblages tended to become more like the reference marsh in the last years of the comparison. Overall, these results document the success of the restoration and how marshes function for both resident and transient fauna, especially fishes.

Keywords

Restoration Salt marshes Fishes Blue crabs Long-term Delaware Bay