, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 379-389

Composition, abundance, biomass, and production of macrofauna in a New England estuary: Comparisons among eelgrass meadows and other nursery habitats

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Abstract

Quantitative suction sampling was used to characterize and compare the species composition, abundance, biomass, and secondary production of macrofauna inhabiting intertidal mud-flat and sand-flat, eelgrass meadow, and salt-marsh-pool habitats in the Nauset Marsh complex, Cape Cod, Massachusetts (USA). Species richness and abundance were often greatest in eelgrass habitat, as was macroinvertebrate biomass and production. Most striking was the five to fifteen times greater rate of annual macrofaunal production in eelgrass habitat than elsewhere, with values ranging from approximately 23–139 g AFDW m2 yr−1. The marsh pool containing widgeon grass (Ruppia maritima) supported surprisingly low numbers of macroinvertebrates, probably due to stressfully low dissolved oxygen levels at night during the summer. Two species of macroinvertebrates, blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) and to a lesser extent bay scallops (Argopecten irradians), used eelgrass as “nursery habitat.” Calculations showed that macroinvertebrate production is proportionally much greater than the amount of primary production attributable to eelgrass in the Nauset Marsh system, and that dramatic changes at all trophic levels could be expected if large changes in seagrass abundance should occur. This work further underscores the extraordinarily large impact that seagrass can have on both the structure and function of estuarine ecosystems. *** DIRECT SUPPORT *** A01BY070 00006