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Nursery ground value of an endangered wetland to juvenile shrimps

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Although urban development impacts wetlands around the world, until now there have been no studies of its effects on coastal wetlands in tropical regions of developed countries such as Australia. In fact the ecological value of such wetlands is poorly understood. This study provides an initial step in evaluating the ecological value of urbanised, tropical coastal wetlands by determining (a) the extent to which a remnant wetland, in a highly urbanised estuary in northern Australia, is used by juvenile commercial penaeid shrimps, and (b) the extent to which the shrimps rely on food chains based on wetland plants versus marine based food chains. Juvenile penaeids were abundant in the 11 wetland pools sampled. Catches included 5 commercial penaeids with two species, Fenneropenaeus merguiensis and Metapenaeus bennetae, comprising half the catch. Densities in the wetland pools were usually substantially higher than in adjacent estuarine habitats. Stable isotope analysis indicated that much of the nutrition of juvenile shrimps was supplied by marine primary producers (phytoplankton, epiphytic and epilithic algae, microphytobenthos, green filamentous algae) however the locally abundant saltmarsh grass Sporobolus virginicus was also a major contributor. In contrast, there was little indication of nutritional support from mangrove carbon. The lack of importance of mangrove carbon is surprising because the catches of F. merguiensis are often closely linked to the area or extent of mangroves, suggesting that aspects of mangrove systems other than the supply of mangrove carbon may determine the distribution of juvenile F. merguiensis.

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Correspondence to Marcus Sheaves.

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Sheaves, M., Abrantes, K. & Johnston, R. Nursery ground value of an endangered wetland to juvenile shrimps. Wetlands Ecol Manage 15, 311–327 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11273-006-9031-5

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  • Food chain
  • Penaeid shrimps
  • Stable isotopes
  • Urban wetlands