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Estuaries

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 702–716 | Cite as

Fish assemblage composition in constructed and natural tidal marshes of San Diego Bay: Relative influence of channel morphology and restoration history

  • Gregory D. Williams
  • Joy B. Zedler
Article

Abstract

This study evaluated the use by fish of restored tidal wetlands and identified links between fish species composition and habitat characteristics. We compared the attributes of natural and constructed channel habitats in Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, San Diego Bay, California, by using fish monitoring data to explore the relationships between channel environmental characteristics and fish species composition. Fishes were sampled annually for 8 yr (1989–1996) at eight sampling sites, four in constructed marshes and four in natural marshes, using beach seines and blocking nets. We also measured channel habitat characteristics, including channel hydrology (stream order), width and maximum depth, bank slope, water quality (DO, temperature, salinity), and sediment composition. Fish colonization was rapid in constructed channels, and there was no obvious relationship between channel age and species richness or density. Total richness and total density did not differ significantly between constructed and natural channels, although California killifish (Fundulus parvipinnis) were found in significantly higher densities in constructed channels. Multivariate analyses showed fish assemblage composition was related to channel habitat characteristics, suggesting a channel’s physical properties were more important in determining fish use than its restoration status. This relationship highlights the importance of designing restoration projects with natural hydrologic features and choosing proper assessment criteria in order to avoid misleading interpretations of constructed channel success. We recommend that future projects be designed to mimic natural marsh hydrogeomorphology and diversity more closely, the assessment process utilize better estimates of fish habitat function (e.g., individual and community-based species trends, residence time, feeding, growth) and reference site choice, and experimental research be further incorporated into the restoration process.

Keywords

Salt Marsh Fish Assemblage Tidal Marsh Natural Marsh Natural Channel 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Estuarine Research Federation 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gregory D. Williams
    • 1
  • Joy B. Zedler
    • 1
  1. 1.Pacific Estuarine Research LaboratorySan Diego State UniversitySan Diego

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