Landscape Ecology

, Volume 20, Issue 7, pp 841–855 | Cite as

Do Habitat Corridors Influence Animal Dispersal and Colonization in Estuarine Systems?



Studies investigating animal response to habitat in marine systems have mainly focused on habitat preference and complexity. This study is one of the first to investigate the affect of benthic habitat corridors and their characteristics on dispersal and colonization by estuarine macrofuana. In this study, mark-recapture field experiments using artificial seagrass units (ASUs) assessed the effects of seagrass corridors, interpatch distance (5 m vs. 10 m), and the ratio of corridor width to patch width (0.5 m:1 m vs. 0.25 m:1 m) on dispersal of two benthic organisms: the highly mobile grass shrimp, Palaemonetes sp., and the less mobile bay scallop, Argopecten irradians, in two estuarine systems in southeastern North Carolina (NC). The presence of a seagrass corridor, interpatch distance, and corridor width to patch width ratios did not significantly affect shrimp or scallop dispersal to receiver patches. Bay scallop dispersal to receiver patches was significantly higher at one site (Drum Shoals) with relatively high flow, compared to a second site (Middle Marsh) with lower flow. We then examined colonization of estuarine macrofauna to seagrass patches with and without corridors to determine which, if any, taxonomic groups respond positively to corridors at scales of 10 m and over 1 month. Colonization of estuarine macrofauna to seagrass patches was enhanced in the presence of corridors at a relatively large interpatch distance (10 m), which was statistically significant for relatively slow moving polychaete worms. Thus, although benthic habitat corridors may facilitate dispersal of relatively slow moving estuarine animals between otherwise isolated seagrass patches, several common seagrass fauna such as grass shrimp and bay scallops apparently use water currents to rapidly disperse across the seagrass/sand landscape.

Key words:

Bay scallops Colonization Corridor Dispersal Estuarine macrofauna Grass shrimp Interpatch distance Recruitment 


  1. 1.
    Andreassen, H.P. 1996Optimal width of movement corridors for root voles: not too narrow and not too wideJ. Appl. Ecol.336370Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Beier, P., Noss, R.F. 1998Do habitat corridors provide connectivity?Conserv. Biol.1212411252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 4.
    Bell, S.S., Hicks, G.R.F. 1991Marine landscapes and faunal recruitment: A field test with seagrasses and copepodsMar. Ecol. Prog. Ser.736168Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Berntson, K.M., Jonsson, P.R., Jejhall, M., Gatenholm, P. 2000Analysis and behavioural rejection of micro-textured surfaces and implications for recruitment by the barnacle Balanus improviusJ. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol.2515983CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 6.
    Blackmon, D.C., Eggleston, D.B. 2001Factors influencing planktonic, post-settlement dispersal of early juvenile blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus Rathbun)J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol.257183203CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 7.
    Boxshall, A.J. 2000The importance of flow and settlement cues to larvae of the abaloneHaliotis rufescens SwainsonJ. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol.254143167CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 8.
    Brooks, R.A., Bell, S.S. 2001Mobile corridors in marine landscapes: enhancement of faunal exchange at seagrass/sand ecotonesJ. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol.2646784CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 9.
    Caselle, J.E., Warner, R.R. 1996Variability in recruitment of coral reef fishes: the importance of habitat at two spatial scalesEcology7724882504Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Coffman, C.J., Nichols, J.D., Pollock, K.H. 2001Population dynamics of Microtus pennsylvanicus in corridor-linked patchesOikos93321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 11.
    Cowen, R.K., Lwiza, K.M.M., Sponaugle, S., Paris, C.B., Olson, D.B. 2000Connectivity of marine populations: open or closed?Science287857859CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 12.
    Dunning, J.B., Borgella, R., Clements, K., Meffe, G.K. 1995Patch isolation, corridor effects, and colonization by a resident sparrow in a managed pine woodlandConserv. Biol.9542550CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 13.
    Eggleston, D.B. 1989Use of a mark-recapture technique to assess crab-attributable mortality rates of subtidal juvenile oysterCrassostrea virginicaJ. Shellfish Res.8475Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    Eggleston, D.B. Etherington L.L., Elis, W.E. 1998Organism response to habitat patchiness: species and habitat-dependent recruitment of decapod crustaceansJ. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol.223111132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 15.
    Eggleston, D.B., Elis, W.E., Etherington, L.L., Dahlgren, C.P., Posey, M.H. 1999Organism response to habitat fragmentation and diversity: Habitat colonization by estuarine macrofaunaJ. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol.236107132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 16.
    Elis, W.E. 1998Scale dependent effects of patch age and starting conditions on floral accumulation and faunal colonization in seagrassNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighNC102Masters of Science thesis.Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    Etherington, L.L., Eggleston, D.B. 2003Spatial dynamics of large-scalemultistage crab (Callinectes sapidus) dispersal: determinants and consequences for recruitmentCan. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci.60873887CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 18.
    Fahrig, L., Merriam, G. 1985Habitat patch connectivity and population survivalEcology6617621768Google Scholar
  18. 19.
    Fahrig, L., Paloheimo, J. 1988Effect of spatial scale arrangement of habitat patches on local population sizeEcology69468475Google Scholar
  19. 20.
    Ferguson, S.H. 2000Predator size and distance to edge: is bigger better?Can. J. Zool.78713720CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 21.
    Gillanders, B.M., Able, K.W., Brown, J.A., Eggleston, D.B., Sheridan, P.F. 2003Evidence of connectivity between juvenile and adult habitats for mobile marine fauna: an important component of nurseriesMar. Ecol. Prog. Ser.247281295Google Scholar
  21. 22.
    Goodsell, P.J., Connell, S.D. 2002Can habitat loss be treated independently of habitat configuration? Implications for rare and common taxa in fragmented landscapesMar. Ecol. Prog. Ser.2393744Google Scholar
  22. 23.
    Haddad, N.M. 1999Corridor use predicted from behaviors at habitat boundariesAm. Nat.153215227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 24.
    Haddad, N.M. 1999Corridor and distance effects on interpatch movements: a landscape experiment with butterfliesEcol. Appl.9612622Google Scholar
  24. 25.
    Haddad, N.M., Baum, K.A. 1999An experimental test of corridor effects on butterfly densitiesEcol. Appl.9623633Google Scholar
  25. 26.
    Hamilton, P.V., Koch, K.M. 1996Orientation toward natural and artificial grassbeds by swimming bay scallops, Argopecten irradians (Lamarck, 1819)J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol.1997988CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 27.
    Harrison, R.L. 1992Toward a theory of inter-refuge corridor designConserv. Biol.6293295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 28.
    Henein, K., Merriam, G. 1990The elements of connectivity where corridor quality is variableLandscape Ecol.4157170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 29.
    Howard, R.K. 1985Measurements of short-term turnover of epifauna within seagrass beds using an in situ staining methodMar. Ecol. Prog. Ser.22163168Google Scholar
  29. 30.
    Ims, R.A. 1995

    Movement patterns related to spatial scale

    Hansson, L.Fahrig, L.Merriam, G. eds. Mosaic Landscapes and Ecological ProcessesChapman and HallLondon85109
    Google Scholar
  30. 31.
    Inglis, G., Underwood, A.J. 1992Comments on some designs proposed for experiments on the biological importance of corridorsConserv. Biol.6581586CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 32.
    Irlandi, E.A., Ambrose, W.G., Orlando, B.A. 1995Landscape ecology and the marine environment: how spatial configuration of seagrass habitat influences growth and survival of the bay scallopOikos72307313Google Scholar
  32. 33.
    Irlandi, E.A. 1997Seagrass patch size and survivorship of an infaunal bivalveOikos78511518Google Scholar
  33. 34.
    Irlandi, E.A., Crawford, M.K. 1997Habitat linkages: the effect of intertidal saltmarshes and adjacent subtidal habitats on abundancemovementand growth of an estuarine fishOecologia110222230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 35.
    Irlandi, E.A., Orlando, B.A., Ambrose, W.G. 1999Influence of seagrass habitat patch size on growth and survival of juvenile bay scallops, Argopecten irradians concentricus (Say)J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol.2352143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 36.
    Jordan, F., Babbitt, K.J., McIvor, C.C., Miller, S.J. 2000Contrasting patterns of habitat use by prawns and crayfish in a headwater marsh of St. Johns RiverFloridaJ. Crust. Biol.20769776Google Scholar
  36. 37.
    Kotliar, N.B., Wiens, J.A. 1990Multiple scales of patchiness and patch structure: a hierarchical framework for the study of heterogeneityOikos59253260Google Scholar
  37. 38.
    Merriam, G., Lanoue, A. 1990Corridor use by small mammals: field measurement for three experimental types of Peromyscus leucopusLandscape Ecol.4123131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 39.
    Micheli, F., Peterson, C.H. 1999Estuarine vegetated habitats as corridors for predator movementsConserv. Biol.13869881CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 40.
    Noss, R.F. 1987Corridors in real landscapes: A reply to Simberloff and CoxConserv. Biol.1159164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 41.
    Palmer, M.A., Allan, J.D., Butman, C.A. 1996Dispersal as a regional process affecting the local dynamics of marine and stream benthic invertebratesTrend. Ecol. Evol.11322326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 42.
    Perkins-Visser, E., Wolcott, T.G., Wolcott, D.L. 1996Nursery role of seagrass beds: enhanced growth of juvenile blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus Rathbun)J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol.198155173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 43.
    Peterson, C.H., Ambrose, W.G., Hunt, J.H. 1982A field test of the swimming response of bay scallop (Argopecten irradians) to changing biological factorsBull. Mar. Sci.32939944Google Scholar
  43. 44.
    Powers, S.P., Peterson, C.H. 2000Conditional density dependence: The flow trigger to expression of density-dependent emigration in bay scallopsLimnol. Oceanogr.45727732Google Scholar
  44. 45.
    Qian, P.Y. 1999Larval settlement of polychaetesHydrobiologia402239253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 46.
    Reyns N.B. and Eggleston D.B. 2004. Environmentally-controlled, density-dependent secondary dispersal in a local estuarine crab population. Oecologia (in press).Google Scholar
  46. 47.
    Robbins, B.D., Bell, S.S. 1994Seagrass landscapes: a terrestrial approach to the marine subtidal environmentTrend. Ecol. Evol.9301305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 48.
    Roberts, C.M. 1997Connectivity and management of Caribbean coral reefsScience27814541457CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. 49.
    Sogard, S.M. 1989Colonization of artificial seagrass by fishes and decapod crustaceans: importance of proximity to natural eelgrassJ. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol.1331537CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 50.
    Tewksbury, J.J, Levey, D.J., Haddad, N.M., Sargent, S., Orrock, J.L., Weldon, A., Danielson, B.J., Brinkeroff, J., Damschen, E.I., Townsend, P. 2002Corridors affect plants, animals, and their interactions in fragmented landscapesProc. Natl. Acad. Sci.991292312926CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. 51.
    Tolimieri, N., Haine, O., Jeffs, A., MeCauley, R., Montgomery, J. 2004Directional orientation of pomacentrid larvae to ambient reef scordCoral reefs23184191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 52.
    Underwood, A.J. 1981Techniques of analysis of variance in experimental marine biology and ecologyOceanogr. Mar. Biol.19513605Google Scholar
  52. 53.
    Virnstein, R.W., Curran, M.C. 1986Colonization of Artificial seagrass versus time and distance from sourceMar. Ecol. Prog. Ser.29279288Google Scholar
  53. 54.
    Winter, M.A., Hamilton, P.V. 1985Factors influencing swimming in bay scallops, Argopecten irradians (Lamarck 1819)J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol.88227242CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric SciencesNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.Center for Fisheries EnhancementMote Marine LaboratorySarasotaUSA

Personalised recommendations