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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 492:211-222 (2013)  -  DOI:

Mummichog Fundulus heteroclitus responses to long-term, whole-ecosystem nutrient enrichment

Konner C. Lockfield1, John W. Fleeger1,*, Linda A. Deegan2

1Department of Biological Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803, USA
2The Ecosystems Center, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: The effects of eutrophication on coastal plants and sessile animals are becoming well known, but responses of mobile species are less well studied. Here, we link variation in abundance, biomass, body size, growth rate, and resource utilization in mummichogs Fundulus heteroclitus >40 mm in length to experimental nutrient enrichment in Plum Island Sound, Massachusetts, USA. To mimic cultural eutrophication, dissolved fertilizer was released into replicate saltmarsh creeks on each rising tide throughout entire growing seasons. In the summer of the sixth year of enrichment, we released coded-wire tagged mummichogs into nutrient-enriched (n = 3733 fish) and reference (n = 3894 fish) creeks and recaptured them over the next 2 mo. We found increased abundance (by 37%), biomass (58%), body size (8%), and herbivory (115%, measured as photosynthetic gut pigment content) in nutrient-enriched creeks, although body condition was unaffected. However, individual growth rates were 43% lower in nutrient-enriched creeks. Nutrient enrichment stimulated primary production, causing a bottom-up enrichment of the food web which fostered increased biomass and body size. However, the reduction in growth rate indicates an adverse consequence of long-term nutrient enrichment. This negative effect occurred in the absence of increased hypoxia in these highly tidally (4 m amplitude) flushed study creeks. The mummichog is an important predator/grazer in salt marshes, and nutrient-induced alterations in biomass or resource utilization will directly or indirectly affect lower trophic levels, including benthic algae, thereby impacting the ecosystem-wide response to eutrophication.

KEY WORDS: Fundulus heteroclitus · Mark and recapture · Eutrophication · Decimal coded-wire tags · Growth rate · Salt marsh

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Cite this article as: Lockfield KC, Fleeger JW, Deegan LA (2013) Mummichog Fundulus heteroclitus responses to long-term, whole-ecosystem nutrient enrichment. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 492:211-222.

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