, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 172-184

Evaluating Ecological Equivalence of Created Marshes: Comparing Structural Indicators with Stable Isotope Indicators of Blue Crab Trophic Support

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Abstract

This study sought to examine ecological equivalence of created marshes of different ages using traditional structural measures of equivalence, and tested a relatively novel approach using stable isotopes as a measure of functional equivalence. We compared soil properties, vegetation, nekton communities, and δ 13C and δ 15N isotope values of blue crab muscle and hepatopancreas tissue and primary producers at created (5–24 years old) and paired reference marshes in SW Louisiana. Paired contrasts indicated that created and reference marshes supported equivalent plant and nekton communities, but differed in soil characteristics. Stable isotope indicators examining blue crab food web support found that the older marshes (8 years+) were characterized by comparable trophic diversity and breadth compared to their reference marshes. Interpretation of results for the youngest site was confounded by the fact that the paired reference, which represented the desired end goal of restoration, contained a greater diversity of basal resources. Stable isotope techniques may give coastal managers an additional tool to assess functional equivalency of created marshes, as measured by trophic support, but may be limited to comparisons of marshes with similar vegetative communities and basal resources, or require the development of robust standardization techniques.