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Urban Land use Affects Resident Fish Communities and Associated Salt Marsh Habitat in Alabama and West Florida, USA

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Abstract

Urban land-use has been shown to impact aquatic environments however not much is known about the effects of low to medium density residential development. Fish and associated habitat were sampled along 23 salt marshes (dominated by Juncus roemerianus) across three urban and three reference tidal creeks of Alabama and west-Florida. Reference creeks had very little surrounding development while urban creeks were surrounded by residential neighborhoods typical for the region. Fish were sampled seasonally for one year along the marsh-water edge using baited minnow traps. Tidal creeks and marsh edges were also surveyed for various environmental attributes including: marsh species composition, stem density and biomass, sediment contaminants, marsh slope, salinity, and water temperature. Urban creeks showed evidence of longer freshwater conditions and greater salinity fluctuation. Total fish abundance and biomass were significantly lower in urban marshes (10.1 ± 1.3 fish trap−1 and 34.8 ± 5.1 g trap−1) compared to reference marshes (14.3 ± 1.8 fish trap−1 and 77.4 ± 10.0 g trap−1). Based on nonmetric multidimensional scaling (NMDS), urban and reference fish assemblages were clearly clustered and correlated with salinity, marsh slope and sediment Cd concentration. These results suggest that marshes in urban-residential tidal creeks may support modified habitats compared to undeveloped creeks.

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Acknowledgements

This study was partially funded through USDA McIntire-Stennis funds and a Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative- Marine Environmental Science Consortium grant. Significant assistance in the field was provided by Craig Roberts, Chris McKee, and Amanda Fletcher. We graciously acknowledge all the homeowners and communities that granted us permission to access their property and use their boat ramps. We appreciate Elise Irwin and the Alabama Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit for allowing us to use their boat. We also thank the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve for use of their dormitory and boat storage. Finally, we thank Dennis DeVries for use of his laboratory space and providing comments on an earlier draft of this paper. Two anonymous reviewers also provided comments that improved this paper.

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Correspondence to Christopher J. Anderson.

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Wedge, M., Anderson, C.J. Urban Land use Affects Resident Fish Communities and Associated Salt Marsh Habitat in Alabama and West Florida, USA. Wetlands 37, 715–727 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-017-0902-8

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