Coastal salt marshes are distributed widely across the globe and are considered essential habitat for many fish and crustacean species. Yet, the literature on fishery support by salt marshes has largely been based on a few geographically distinct model systems, and as a result, inadequately captures the hierarchical nature of salt marsh pattern, process, and variation across space and time. A better understanding of geographic variation and drivers of commonalities and differences across salt marsh systems is essential to informing future management practices. Here, we address the key drivers of geographic variation in salt marshes: hydroperiod, seascape configuration, geomorphology, climatic region, sediment supply and riverine input, salinity, vegetation composition, and human activities. Future efforts to manage, conserve, and restore these habitats will require consideration of how environmental drivers within marshes affect the overall structure and subsequent function for fisheries species. We propose a future research agenda that provides both the consistent collection and reporting of sources of variation in small-scale studies and collaborative networks running parallel studies across large scales and geographically distinct locations to provide analogous information for data poor locations. These comparisons are needed to identify and prioritize restoration or conservation efforts, identify sources of variation among regions, and best manage fisheries and food resources across the globe.
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This perspective arose from a meeting held at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL) 1–3 November 2019 as part of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF) 2019 Conference Workshop Program. The findings and conclusions in this manuscript are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the view of NOAA or of any other natural resource Trustee for the BP/Deepwater Horizon NRDA.
The meeting was funded by grants to R. Baker from the University of South Alabama and DISL, and sponsorship from Mississippi-Alabama-, Georgia-, and Washington-Sea Grants, the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, the DISL Foundation, and CERF. Funding for travel was provided to SLZ by a UNC Chapel Hill Graduate School Travel Grant and JFR by the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resources Damage Assessment. NW is funded by the Australian Government National Environmental Science Program (Tropical Water Quality Hub) and TW was supported by an anonymous gift to The Nature Conservancy. RMC is supported by the Global Wetlands Project, through a charitable organization which neither seeks nor permits publicity for its efforts. DDC is supported by a Delta Science Fellowship administered by California Sea Grant.
Communicated by John C. Callaway
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Ziegler, S.L., Baker, R., Crosby, S.C. et al. Geographic Variation in Salt Marsh Structure and Function for Nekton: a Guide to Finding Commonality Across Multiple Scales. Estuaries and Coasts 44, 1497–1507 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-020-00894-y
- Salt marshes
- Spatial scales
- Environmental drivers
- Global networks
- Open science