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Oecologia

, Volume 77, Issue 1, pp 101–106 | Cite as

Occupation of submerged aquatic vegetation by fishes: testing the roles of food and refuge

  • Lawrence P. Rozas
  • William E. Odum
Original Papers

Summary

We conducted a series of field experiments to examine the roles of refuge and food availability in explaining the distribution and abundance of fish in tidal freshwater marsh creeks. Two hypotheses were tested: (1) relative predation pressure is less in SAV than in unvegetated areas and (2) fish food availability is greater in SAV than in nearby unvegetated areas. Tethering experiments using mummichogs (Fundulus heteroclitus) in vegetated and unvegetated areas revealed that relative predation pressure was significantly less in areas with SAV. Banded killifish (Fundulus diaphanus) maintained in vegetated enclosures consumed prey associated with SAV, whereas those held in unvegetated pens had empty stomachs. No differences were found in the number of prey eaten by bluespotted sunfish (Enneacanthus gloriosus) or mummichogs when confined in vegetated or unvegetated enclosures. However, larger prey were consumed by bluespotted sunfish and mummichogs maintained in vegetated enclosures. These data suggest that foraging profitability is significantly enhanced by feeding in the SAV. Submerged plant beds in tidal freshwater marsh creeks not only afford protection from predators, but also provide a rich foraging habitat. By foraging in SAV, fish consume larger prey and may have higher growth rates, lower mortality, and higher fecundity.

Key words

Prey availability Predation, cover SAV Tidal freshwater Habitat selection 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence P. Rozas
    • 1
  • William E. Odum
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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