Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 1537–1542 | Cite as

Quantifying Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis) Dependence on Saltmarsh-Derived Productivity Using Stable Isotope Analysis

  • Henry K. Baker
  • James A. NelsonEmail author
  • Heather M. Leslie


Each winter, populations of striped bass (Morone saxatilis) migrate north from the coastal mid-Atlantic region of the US to the coastal waters of New England. During this migration, striped bass spend significant time in estuaries and saltmarshes, presumably to forage. However, the extent to which saltmarsh productivity supports striped bass remains unresolved. We used a three-isotope Bayesian mixing model to determine the relative contribution of three primary producers [C4 saltmarsh cordgrass (Spartina spp.), phytoplankton, and benthic diatoms] to striped bass tissue. Phytoplankton (51 % contribution) and Spartina-derived sources (44 % contribution) are the primary sources of production to striped bass, while benthic diatoms made a relatively small contribution (5 %). Our results highlight the importance of saltmarshes to striped bass by showing that primary producers unique to saltmarsh ecosystems support a large proportion of striped bass production.


Saltmarsh Food web Estuaries Stable isotopes Striped bass Morone saxatilis 



The authors are grateful to the many interns who participated in the collection of the samples, especially David Behringer, John Pirie, Dane Nelson, and Beau Nelson. Special thanks to M. Otter for isotopic analysis. Many thanks to L. Deegan for her input on the writing of this manuscript. M. Mather for advising on the set up of the study. Funding for this research was provided by the Plum Island Ecosystems LTER (NSF-OCE 1238212), TIDE Project (NSF-DEB 0816963, 1354494), and the Northeast Climate Science Center. Research support was also provided to H. Baker by the Marine Biological Laboratory and Brown University’s Biology Program.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henry K. Baker
    • 1
  • James A. Nelson
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Heather M. Leslie
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.Ecosystem Center, Marine Biological LaboratoryWoods HoleUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of LouisianaLafayetteUSA
  4. 4.Darling Marine CenterUniversity of MaineWalpoleUSA

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