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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13309

Juvenile fish assemblage recruitment dynamics in a mid-Atlantic estuary: before and after Hurricane Sandy

Jessica L. Valenti*, Thomas M. Grothues, Kenneth W. Able

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Hurricanes can have long-term effects on estuarine fauna. Understanding these effects is important as climate change may influence the severity and frequency of these storms. On 29 October 2012, Hurricane Sandy, a large storm spanning roughly 1850 km in diameter, made landfall in Brigantine, New Jersey (U.S.A.) approximately 20 km south of Barnegat Bay during an ongoing study of the bay’s ichthyofauna, providing an opportunity to observe fish recruitment dynamics coincident with hurricane passage. The objective of this study was to measure variance in the Barnegat Bay pre-Sandy fish assemblage relative to that of one and two years after the storm. Barnegat Bay fishes were surveyed with an extensive otter trawl study in April, June, August, and October of 2012 (pre-Sandy), 2013 (one year post-Sandy), and 2014 (two years post-Sandy). Species composition of the fish assemblage was similar across years. Analyzed structural characteristics (abundance, diversity, richness) of the fish assemblage were occasionally more likely to occur or were larger pre-Sandy and two years post-Sandy relative to one year post-Sandy, but this trend was inconsistent across seasons and between structural characteristics. Furthermore, odds of occurrence and length frequency distributions for many resident species and sentinel fall/winter spawners did not indicate that variance could be definitively explained as a hurricane effect. The capability of fish to relocate from areas of temporarily unsuitable habitat and annual new recruitment of larvae and juveniles to the bay likely contributed to the observed stability in the fish assemblage.