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Aquaculture Environment Interactions

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AEI 15:307-321 (2023)  -  DOI:

Nekton use of co-occurring aquaculture and seagrass structure on tidal flats

F. C. Boardman*, E. R. Subbotin, J. L. Ruesink

Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-1800, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: On the extensive tidal flats of Willapa Bay (Pacific coast, USA), oyster culture, seagrass, and mudflats create a mosaic of intertidal habitats. Structured habitats are generally considered to increase abundance and diversity of associated species, but less attention has been paid to roles of different kinds of structure (seagrass meadows, reefs, farm infrastructure) or co-occurring structure in shaping nekton assemblage structure. Here, we investigated the effects of different oyster culture methods (suspended culture and bottom culture) on nekton communities and abundance across a gradient of seagrass habitats, during multiple seasons, and using both seine and video sampling methods. Of 23 major estuarine taxa, 2 were generally associated with vertical structure (eelgrass or suspended culture), 3 were seagrass specialists, and 3 primarily used habitats lacking vertical structure (mudflats and bottom culture). Where oyster culture was present, 5 taxa associated with on-bottom and 2 taxa associated with suspended culture. Assemblage structure responded to co-occurring structure as expected from responses to each structure type independently (i.e. additive effects of seagrass and oyster culture). In contrast to much empirical evidence in structured habitats, seagrass density was a poor predictor of overall fish abundance. These findings together suggest that maintaining a mosaic of available habitats is favorable for promoting diversity in Willapa Bay.

KEY WORDS: Seagrass · Oysters · Aquaculture · Nekton · Fish · Community

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Cite this article as: Boardman FC, Subbotin ER, Ruesink JL (2023) Nekton use of co-occurring aquaculture and seagrass structure on tidal flats. Aquacult Environ Interact 15:307-321.

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