Home > Explore Data & Reports > Linking the Abundance of Estuarine Fish and Crustaceans in Nearshore Waters to Shoreline Hardening and Land Cover


Kornis, M.S., D. Breitburg, R. Balouskus, D.M. Bilkovic, L.A. Davias, S. Giordano, K. Heggie, A.H. Hines, J.M. Jacobs, T.E. Jordan, R.S. King, C.J. Patrick, R.D. Seitz, H. Soulen, T.E. Targett, D.E. Weller, D.F. Whigham, and J. Uphoff, Jr. 2017. Linking the Abundance of Estuarine Fish and Crustaceans in Nearshore Waters to Shoreline Hardening and Land Cover. Estuaries and Coasts, 40(5):1464-1486. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-017-0213-6

Data/Report Type:

Peer-Reviewed Publication


Human alteration of land cover (e.g., urban and agricultural land use) and shoreline hardening (e.g., bulkheading and rip rap revetment) are intensifying due to increasing human populations and sea level rise. Fishes and crustaceans that are ecologically and economically valuable to coastal systems may be affected by these changes, but direct links between these stressors and faunal populations have been elusive at large spatial scales. We examined nearshore abundance patterns of 15 common taxa across gradients of urban and agricultural land cover as well as wetland and hardened shoreline in tributary subestuaries of the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Coastal Bays. We used a comprehensive landscape-scale study design that included 587 sites in 39 subestuaries. Our analyses indicate shoreline hardening has predominantly negative effects on estuarine fauna in water directly adjacent to the hardened shoreline and at the larger system-scale as cumulative hardened shoreline increased in the subestuary. In contrast, abundances of 12 of 15 species increased with the proportion of shoreline comprised of wetlands. Abundances of several species were also significantly related to watershed cropland cover, submerged aquatic vegetation, and total nitrogen, suggesting land-use-mediated effects on prey and refuge habitat. Specifically, abundances of four bottom-oriented species were negatively related to cropland cover, which is correlated with elevated nitrogen and reduced submerged and wetland vegetation in the receiving subestuary. These empirical relationships raise important considerations for conservation and management strategies in coastal environments.

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