The nursery role of seagrass meadows in the upper and lower reaches of the Chesapeake Bay
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A two-year trawling and gill-netting study of vegetated and unvegetated bottoms near Parson’s Island, Maryland and near the mouth of the York River, Virginia was carried out to assess the nursery function of submerged vegetation for populations of fishes and decapod crustaceans in the Chesapeake Bay. Results revealed that vegetated bottoms supported substantially larger numbers of decapods, but not fishes, than unvegetated substrates. The lower Bay grassbed was an important nursery area for juvenile blue crabs, although neither of the grassbeds functioned as a nursery for commercially or recreationally valuable fishes. Our results suggest that: (1) further decreases in lower Bay Seagrass biomass would result in reduced numbers of adult blue crabs, but should not substantially affect populations of valuable fish species; (2) additional decreases in Upper Bay submerged vegetation should not produce dramatic change in the population sizes of either adult blue crabs or fishes.
KeywordsBlue Crab Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Seagrass Meadow Carapace Width Grass Shrimp
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