Early Responses of Fishes and Crustaceans to Restoration of a Tidally Restricted New England Salt Marsh


Present address: Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, 55 South Reserve Drive, Prudence Island, RI 02872. E-mail: kenny@gsosun1.gso.uri.edu.


Nekton (fishes and decapod crustaceans) is an abundant and productive faunal component of salt marshes, yet nekton responses to tidal manipulations of New England salt marshes remain unclear. This study examined nekton use of a tidally restricted salt marsh in Narragansett, Rhode Island relative to an unrestricted marsh during summer. In addition, a before-after-control-impact design was used to examine early responses of nekton to the reintroduction of natural tidal flushing. Species richness and densities of Cyprinodon variegatus, Lucania parva, Menidia beryllina, and Palaemonetes pugio were higher in the restricted marsh compared with the unrestricted marsh. The unrestricted marsh supported higher densities of Menidia menidia and Fundulus majalis. Mean lengths of Carcinus maenas and P. pugio were greater in the restricted marsh. Tidal restoration resulted in increased tidal flushing, salinity, and water depth in the restricted marsh. Densities of Fundulus heteroclitus, F. majalis, and Callinectes sapidus were higher after 2 years of restoration. Density of L. parva decreased after restoration, probably in response to a loss of macroalgal habitat. Species richness also decreased after 2 years, from 20.9 species when the marsh was restricted to 13.0 species. Total nekton density did not change with restoration, but shifts in community composition were evident. In this study restoration induced rapid changes in the composition, density, size, and distribution of nekton species, but additional monitoring is necessary to quantify longer-term effects of salt marsh restoration on nekton.