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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 672:45-56 (2021)  -  DOI:

Influence of marsh island size on nekton communities: intermediate optima rather than Single-Large-or-Several-Small (SLOSS)

Shelby L. Ziegler1,2,*, Lauren R. Clance1,3, Andrew R. McMains1,4, Marianna D. Miller1, F. Joel Fodrie1

1Institute of Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 3431 Arendell Street, Morehead City, North Carolina 28557, USA
2Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, San Jose State University, 8272 Moss Landing Road, Moss Landing, California 95039, USA
3Dauphin Island Sea Lab, University of South Alabama, 101 Bienville Blvd, Dauphin Island, Alabama 36528, USA
4Coastal Studies Institute, East Carolina University Outer Banks Campus, 850 NC 345, Wanchese, North Carolina 27981, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Habitat extent and configuration are critical drivers of faunal abundance, diversity, and ecosystem functioning. Evidence from terrestrial systems often suggests that large contiguous tracts of habitat generally support more species and individuals than several small patches of equal summed area. However, studies from shallow-water marine systems often suggest the opposite trend or that there are more complex interactions. Since tidal wetlands (e.g. salt marshes and mangrove forests) are at the interface between terrestrial and marine ecosystems and provide essential nursery habitat for a variety of estuarine taxa, it is important to elucidate how the size, configuration, and surrounding matrix of these wetlands influence their role in supporting faunal communities. We sampled 12 isolated marsh islands ranging in size from 300 to 55000 m2 within North Carolina, USA, to better understand the influence of marsh size and configuration on overall biodiversity and faunal abundance of estuarine nekton. Field observations indicated that nekton catch rates were directly correlated with marsh area and perimeter; however, species richness did not change with marsh size or configuration. Further analysis indicated that small and medium marsh islands support higher species turnover among islands than large marsh islands. Quantitative simulations using the ‘Single-Large-Or-Several-Small’ framework and idealized, circular islands showed that intermediate-sized islands support the highest relative abundance of nekton after standardizing for total marsh area. Our findings suggest that focused conservation or restoration efforts for marsh islands ranging in size from 1000 to 10000 m2 may help maintain and enhance estuarine nekton communities.

KEY WORDS: Landscape · Conservation · Tidal marshes · Fragmentation · Biodiversity · Faunal abundance

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Cite this article as: Ziegler SL, Clance LR, McMains AR, Miller MD, Fodrie FJ (2021) Influence of marsh island size on nekton communities: intermediate optima rather than Single-Large-or-Several-Small (SLOSS). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 672:45-56.

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