Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 800–812 | Cite as

Body Condition and Foraging Patterns of Nekton from Salt Marsh Habitats Arrayed Along a Gradient of Urbanization

  • Michael R. LoweEmail author
  • Mark S. Peterson


Coastal salt marsh landscapes have undergone rapid urbanization that may impact the suitability of salt marsh ecosystems for the maintenance and regulation of estuarine faunal communities. This paper examines the body condition (a surrogate for growth) of blue crab, brown shrimp, spot, and Gulf killifish in response to increasing levels of urbanization in salt marsh landscapes in coastal Mississippi. Blue crab and brown shrimp condition did not differ among landscapes. Conversely, both Gulf killifish and spot body condition was markedly reduced in highly urbanized salt marsh landscapes, and these differences were likely linked to landscape-specific foraging patterns. In completely urbanized landscapes, empty stomachs were more frequent and larger bodied brown shrimp were characteristic of Gulf killifish diets. In contrast, smaller grass shrimp and fish were key diet components in both intact natural and partially urbanized salt marsh landscapes. Similarly, spot had a greater frequency of empty stomachs and appeared to delay a dietary ontogenetic shift toward feeding on large prey upon recruitment to salt marsh habitats in completely urbanized landscapes. Overall, these results indicate that highly urbanized salt marshes, while providing sufficient resources to support healthy brown shrimp and blue crab populations, were not functional habitats for all nekton.


Urbanization Salt marsh Nekton Body condition Diet analysis 



We thank Brock Houston, Paul Grammer, Erik Lang, Michael Andres, Jeanne-Marie Havrylkoff, and Claire Matten for their assistance in the field and laboratory. We also thank Jerry McClelland for his assistance with macroinfaunal identifications. MRL was supported on this project by a departmental stipend from the Department of Coastal Sciences at the University of Southern Mississippi.


  1. Abele L.G., and W. Kim. 1986. An illustrated guide to the marine decapod crustaceans of Florida. Technical Series 8. State of Florida, Department of Environmental Regulation, Tallahassee, FL.Google Scholar
  2. Able, K.W., J.P. Manderson, and A.L. Studholme. 1999. Habitat quality for shallow water fishes in an urban estuary: the effects of manmade structures on growth. Marine Ecology Progress Series 187: 227–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson, M.J., R.N. Gorley, and K.R. Clarke. 2008. PERMANOVA+ for PRIMER: guide to software and statistical methods. Plymouth: PRIMER-E.Google Scholar
  4. Babkin, B.P., and D.J. Bowie. 1928. The digestive system and its function in Fundulus heteroclitus. Biological Bulletin 54: 254–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baker, R., A. Buckland, and M. Sheaves. 2014. Fish gut content analysis: robust measures of diet composition. Fish and Fisheries 15: 170–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beck, M.W., K.L. Heck Jr., K.W. Able, D.L. Childers, D.B. Eggleston, B.M. Gillanders, B. Halpern, C.G. Hays, K. Hoshino, T.J. Minello, R.J. Orth, P.F. Sheridan, and M.R. Weinstein. 2001. The identification, conservation, and management of estuarine and marine nurseries for fish and invertebrates. Bioscience 51: 633–641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bilkovic, D.M., and M.M. Roggero. 2008. Effects of coastal development on nearshore estuarine nekton communities. Marine Ecology Progress Series 358: 27–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boesch, D.F., and R.E. Turner. 1984. Dependence of fishery species on salt marshes—the role of food and refuge. Estuaries 7: 460–468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bromberg-Gedan, K., B.R. Silliman, and M.D. Bertness. 2009. Centuries of human-driven change in salt marsh ecosystems. Annual Reviews in Marine Science 1: 117–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Buckel, J.A., B.H. Letcher, and D. Conover. 1998. Effects of a delayed onset of piscivory on the size of age-0 bluefish. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 127: 576–587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clarke, K.R., and R.N. Corley. 2006. PRIMER v6: user manual/tutorial. Plymouth: PRIMER-E Ltd.Google Scholar
  12. Costanza, R., R. D’Asrge, R. de Groot, S. Farber, M. Grasso, B. Hanson, K. Limburg, S. Naeem, R. O’Neill, J. Paruelo, R. Raskin, P. Suton, and M. van den Belt. 1997. The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature 387: 253–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Costanza, R., R. de Groot, P. Sutton, S. van der Ploeg, S.J. Anderson, I. Kubiszewski, S. Farber, and R.K. Turner. 2014. Changes in the global value of ecosystem services. Global Environmental Change 26: 152–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Crossett, J.M., T.J. Culliton, P.C. Wiley, and T.R. Goodspeed. 2004. Population trends along the Coastal United States: 1980-2008. Washington, DC: NOAA.Google Scholar
  15. Daly, E.A., R.D. Brodeur, and L.A. Weitkamp. 2009. Ontogenetic shifts in diets of juvenile and subadult coho and Chinook salmon in coastal marine waters: important for marine survival? Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 138: 1420–1438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. deMutsert, K. 2010. The effects of a freshwater diversion on nekton species biomass distributions, food web pathways, and community structure in a Louisiana estuary. Ph.D. Dissertation, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.Google Scholar
  17. Green, S.B., and N.L. Salkind. 2008. Using SPSS for Windows and Macintosh. Anaylyzing and Understanding Data. 5th Edition. Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.Google Scholar
  18. Haas, H.L., K.A. Rose, B. Fry, T.J. Minello, and L.P. Rozas. 2005. Brown shrimp on the edge: linking habitats to survival using an individual-based simulation model. Ecological Applications 14: 1232–1247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Harrington Jr., R.W., and E.S. Harrington. 1961. Food selection among fishes invading a high subtropical salt marsh: from onset of flooding through the progress of a mosquito brood. Ecology 42: 646–666.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Heard, R.W. 1982. Guide to common tidal marsh invertebrates of the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, MASGC-79-004, Ocean Springs, MS.Google Scholar
  21. Heck Jr., K.L., L.D. Coen, and S.G. Morgan. 2001. Pre- and post-settlement factors as determinants of juvenile blue crab Callinectes sapidus abundance: results from the north-central Gulf of Mexico. Marine Ecology Progress Series 222: 163–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Heinz Center. 2002. The status of the nation’s ecosystems. The H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Hendon, J.R., M.S. Peterson, and B.H. Comyns. 2000. Spatio-temporal distribution of larval Gobiosoma bosc in waters adjacent to natural and altered marsh-edge habitats of Mississippi coastal waters. Bulletin of Marine Science 66: 143–156.Google Scholar
  24. Hines, A.H. 2007. Ecology of juvenile and adult blue crabs. In: Kennedy, V.S., and L.E. Cronin (eds) The blue crab: Callinectes sapidus, 565–654. Maryland Sea Grant.Google Scholar
  25. Hines, A.H., A.M. Haddon, and L.A. Wichert. 1990. Guild structure and foraging impact of blue crabs and epibenthic fish in a subestuary of Chesapeake Bay. Marine Ecology Progress Series 67: 105–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hsueh, P.W., J.B. McClintock, and T.S. Hopkins. 1992. Comparative study of the diets of the blue crabs Callinectes similis and C. sapidus from a mud-bottom habitat in Mobile Bay, Alabama. Journal of Crustacean Biology 12: 615–619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jordan, S.J., L.M. Smith, and J.A. Nestlerode. 2009. Cumulative effects of coastal habitat alterations on fishery resources: toward prediction at regional scales. Ecology and Society 14: 16.Google Scholar
  28. Kennish, M.J. 2001. Coastal salt marsh systems in the U.S.: a review of anthropogenic impacts. Journal of Coastal Research 17: 731–748.Google Scholar
  29. Kneib, R.T. 1982. The effects of predation by wading birds (Ardeidae) and blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) on the population size structure of the common mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus). Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 14: 159–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kneib, R.T. 2000. Salt marsh ecoscapes and production transfers by estuarine nekton in the southeastern United States. In Concepts and controversies in tidal marsh ecology, ed. M.P. Weinstein and D.J. Kreeker, 267–292. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  31. Krebs, J.M., C.C. McIvor, and S.S. Bell. 2014. Nekton community structure varies in response to coastal urbanization near mangrove tidal tributaries. Estuaries and Coasts 37: 815–831.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Livingston, R.J. 1982. Trophic organization of fishes in a coastal seagrass system. Marine Ecology Progress Series 7: 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Long, W.C., J.N. Grow, J.E. Maoris, and A.H. Hines. 2011. Effects of anthropogenic shoreline hardening and invasion by Phragmites australis on habitat quality for juvenile blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 409: 215–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lopez, J.D., M.S. Peterson, E.T. Lang, and A.M. Charbonnet. 2010. Linking habitat and life history for conservation of the rare saltmarsh topminnow Fundulus jenkinsi: morphometrics, reproduction, and trophic ecology. Endangered Species Research 12: 141–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lotze, H.K., H.S. Lenihan, B.J. Bourque, R.H. Bradbury, R.G. Cooke, M.C. Kay, S.M. Kidwell, M.X. Kirby, C.H. Peterson, and J.B.H. Jackson. 2006. Depletion, degradation and recover potential of estuaries and coastal seas. Science 312: 1806–1809.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lowe, M.R., and M.S. Peterson. 2014. Effects of coastal urbanization on salt marsh faunal assemblages in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science 6: 89–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lowe, M.R., W. Wu, M.S. Peterson, N.J. Brown-Peterson, W.T. Slack, and P.J. Schofield. 2012. Survival, growth and reproduction of non-native Nile tilapia II. Fundamental niche projections and invasion potential in the northern Gulf of Mexico. PLoS ONE 7: e41580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mee, L. 2012. Between the devil and the deep blue sea: the coastal zone in an era of globalization. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 96: 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Meise, C.J., and L.L. Stehlik. 2003. Habitat use, temporal abundance variability, and diet of blue crabs from a New Jersey estuarine system. Estuaries 26: 731–745.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Miller, J.M., and M.L. Dunn. 1980. Feeding strategies and patterns of movement in juvenile estuarine fishes. In Estuarine perspectives, ed. V.S. Kennedy, 437–448. New York: Academic.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Minello, T.J., and L.P. Rozas. 2002. Nekton in Gulf coast wetlands: fine-scale distributions, landscape patterns, and restoration implications. Ecological Applications 1(112): 441–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Minello, T.J., K.W. Able, M.P. Weinstein, and C.G. Hays. 2003. Salt marshes as nurseries for nekton: testing hypotheses on density, growth and survival through meta-analysis. Marine Ecology Progress Series 246: 39–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Nemerson, D.M., and K.W. Able. 2004. Spatial patterns in diet and distribution of juveniles of four fish species in Delaware Bay marsh creeks: factors influencing fish abundance. Marine Ecology Progress Series 276: 249–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. O’Connell, M.T., C.D. Franze, E.A. Spalding, and M.A. Poirrier. 2005. Biological resources of the Louisiana coast: part 2. Coastal animals and habitat associations. Journal of Coastal Research 44: 146–161.Google Scholar
  45. O’Neil, S.P., and M.P. Weinstein. 1987. Feeding habitats of spot, Leiostomus xanthurus, in polyhaline versus meso-oligohaline tidal creeks and shoals. Fisheries Bulletin 85: 785–796.Google Scholar
  46. Partyka, M.L., and M.S. Peterson. 2008. Habitat quality and salt-marsh species assemblages along an anthropogenic estuarine landscape. Journal of Coastal Research 24: 1570–1581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Perschbacher, P.W., and K. Strawn. 1986. Feeding selectivity and standing stocks of Fundulus grandis in an artificial brackish water pond, with comments on Cyprinodon variegatus. Contributions in Marine Science 28: 103–111.Google Scholar
  48. Peterson, G.W., and R.E. Turner. 1994. The value of salt marsh edge vs interior as a habitat for fish and decapod crustaceans in a Louisiana tidal marsh. Estuaries 17: 235–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Peterson, M.S. 2003. Conceptual view of environmental-habitat-production linkages in tidal-river estuaries. Reviews in Fisheries Science 11: 291–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Peterson, M.S., and M.R. Lowe. 2009. Implications of cumulative impacts to estuarine and marine habitat quality for fish and invertebrate resources. Reviews in Fisheries Science 17: 505–523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Peterson, M.S., and M.L. Partyka. 2006. Baseline mapping of Phragmites australis (common reed) in three coastal Mississippi estuarine basins. Southeastern Naturalist 5: 747–756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Peterson, M.S., B.H. Comyns, J.R. Hendon, P.J. Bond, and G.A. Duff. 2000. Habitat use by early life-history stages of fishes and crustaceans along a changing estuarine landscape: differences between natural and altered shoreline sites. Wetlands Ecology and Management 8: 209–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Peterson, M.S., M.R. Weber, M.L. Partyka, and S.T. Ross. 2007. Integrating in situ quantitative geographic information tools and size-specific laboratory-based growth zones in a dynamic river-mouth estuary. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Research 17: 602–618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rakocinski, C.F., H.M. Perry, M.A. Abney, and K.M. Larsen. 2003. Soft-sediment recruitment dynamics of early blue crab stages in Mississippi Sound. Bulletin of Marine Science 72: 393–408.Google Scholar
  55. Roth, B.M., K.A. Rose, L.P. Rozas, and T.J. Minello. 2008. Relative influence of habitat fragmentation and inundation on brown shrimp Farfantepenaeus aztecus production in northern Gulf of Mexico salt marshes. Marine Ecology Progress Series 359: 185–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rozas, L.P., and M.W. LaSalle. 1990. A comparison of the diets of Gulf killifish, Fundulus grandis Baird and Girard, entering and leaving a Mississippi brackish marsh. Estuaries 13: 332–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Rozas, L.P., and R.J. Zimmerman. 2000. Small-scale patterns of nekton use among marsh and adjacent shallow nonvegetated areas of the Galveston Bay Estuary, Texas. Marine Ecology Progress Series 193: 217–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Schoener, T.W. 1971. Theory of feeding strategies. Annual Reviews In Ecology and Systematics 2: 369–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Shenker, J.M., and J.M. Dean. 1979. The utilization of an intertidal salt marsh creek by larval and juvenile fishes: abundance, diversity and temporal variations. Estuaries 2: 154–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sheridan, P.F. 1979. Trophic resource utilization by three species of sciaenid fishes in a northwest Florida estuary. Northeast Gulf Science 3: 1–15.Google Scholar
  61. Sogard, S.M. 1994. Use of suboptimal foraging habitats by fishes: consequences to growth and survival. In Theory and application in fish feeding ecology, ed. D.H. Stouder, K.L. Fresh, and R.J. Feller, 103–132. South Carolina: Belle W. Baruch Library in Marine Science no. 18.Google Scholar
  62. Stein, R.A. 1977. Selective predation, optimal foraging, and the predator-prey interaction between fish and crayfish. Ecology 58: 1237–1253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Thorp, J.H., and A.P. Covich. 1991. Ecology and classification of North American freshwater invertebrates. San Diego: Academic Press, Inc.Google Scholar
  64. Turner, R.E. 1990. Landscape development and coastal wetlands losses in the northern Gulf of Mexico. American Zoologist 30: 89–105.Google Scholar
  65. U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. 2004. An ocean blueprint for the 21st century. Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  66. Valiela, I., D. Rutecki, and S. Fox. 2004. Salt marshes: biological controls of food webs in a diminishing environment. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 300: 131–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Vitousek, P.M., H.A. Mooney, J. Lubchenco, and J.M. Melillo. 1997. Human domination of earth’s ecosystems. Science 277: 494–499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Weinstein, M.P. 1979. Shallow marsh habitats as primary nurseries for fishes and shellfish, Cape Fear River, North Carolina. Fisheries Bulletin 77: 339–357.Google Scholar
  69. Weisberg, S.B., and V.A. Lotrich. 1982. Ingestion, egestion, excretion, growth, and conversion efficiency for the mummichog, Fundulus heteroclitus (L.). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 62: 237–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Weitkamp, L.A., and M.V. Sturdevant. 2008. Food habits and marine survival of juvenile Chinook and coho salmon from marine waters of southeast Alaska. Fisheries Oceanography 17: 380–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Zapfe, G.A., and C.F. Rakocinski. 2008. Coherent growth and diet patterns in juvenile spot (Leiostomus xanthurus Lacepéde) reflect effects of hydrology on access to shoreline habitat. Fisheries Research 91: 107–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Zimmerman, R.J., T.J. Minello, and L.P. Rozas. 2000. Salt marsh linkages to productivity of penaeid shrimps and blue crabs in the northern Gulf of Mexico. In Concepts and controversies in tidal marsh ecology, ed. M.P. Weinstein and D.J. Kreeker, 267–292. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Coastal SciencesUniversity of Southern MississippiOcean SpringsUSA
  2. 2.Biology DepartmentWoods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionWoods HoleUSA

Personalised recommendations