Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 41, Supplement 1, pp 114–130 | Cite as

Human Influence at the Coast: Upland and Shoreline Stressors Affect Coastal Macrofauna and Are Mediated by Salinity

  • Rochelle D. SeitzEmail author
  • Kathleen E. Knick
  • Theresa M. Davenport
  • Gabrielle G. Saluta


Anthropogenic stressors can affect subtidal communities within the land-water interface. Increasing anthropogenic activities, including upland and shoreline development, threaten ecologically important species in these habitats. In this study, we examined the consequences of anthropogenic stressors on benthic macrofaunal communities in 14 subestuaries of Chesapeake Bay. We investigated how subestuary upland use (forested, agricultural, developed land) and shoreline development (riprap and bulkhead compared to marsh and beach) affected density, biomass, and diversity of benthic infauna. Upland and shoreline development were parameters included in the most plausible models among a candidate set compared using corrected Akaike’s Information Criterion. For benthic macrofauna, density tended to be lower in subestuaries with developed or mixed compared to forested or agricultural upland use. Benthic biomass was significantly lower in subestuaries with developed compared to forested upland use, and biomass declined exponentially with proportion of near-shore developed land. Benthic density did not differ significantly among natural marsh, beach, and riprap habitats, but tended to be lower adjacent to bulkhead shorelines. Including all subestuaries, there were no differences in diversity by shoreline type. In low salinities, benthic Shannon (H′) diversity tended to be higher adjacent to natural marshes compared to the other habitats, and lower adjacent to bulkheads, but the pattern was reversed in high salinities. Sediment characteristics varied by shoreline type and contributed to differences in benthic community structure. Given the changes in the infaunal community with anthropogenic stressors, subestuary upland and shoreline development should be minimized to increase benthic production and subsequent trophic transfer within the food web.


Shoreline development Invertebrates Estuaries Bulkhead Benthos Chesapeake Bay 



We thank staff and students from the VIMS Community Ecology and Marine Conservation Biology labs for field, lab, and statistical assistance. We also thank R. Lipcius and M. Karp for their review of and suggestions for this manuscript. This is contribution number 3701 from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Funding Information

Funding for this paper was provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research (CSCOR) Award number NA09NOS4780221 to RDS.

Supplementary material

12237_2017_347_MOESM1_ESM.docx (507 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 506 kb)


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Corrected Publication 2019

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits use, duplication, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rochelle D. Seitz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kathleen E. Knick
    • 1
  • Theresa M. Davenport
    • 2
  • Gabrielle G. Saluta
    • 1
  1. 1.Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & MaryGloucester PointUSA
  2. 2.Marine Science CenterNortheastern UniversityNahantUSA

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